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Chapter I.—The Life and Writings of St. Hilary of Poitiers.
St. Hilary of Poitiers is one of the greatest, yet least studied, of the Fathers of the Western Church. He has suffered thus, partly from a certain obscurity in his style of writing, partly from the difficulty of the thoughts which he attempted to convey. But there are other reasons for the comparative neglect into which he has fallen. He learnt his theology, as we shall see, from Eastern authorities, and was not content to carry on and develop the traditional teaching of the West; and the disciple of Origen, who found his natural allies in the Cappadocian school of Basil and the Gregories11 An actual dependence on Gregory of Nyssa has sometimes been ascribed to Hilary. But Gregory was surely too young for this. He may himself have borrowed from Hilary; but more probably both derived their common element from Eastern writers like Basil of Ancyra., his juniors though they were, was speaking to somewhat unsympathetic ears. Again, his Latin tongue debarred him from influence in the East, and he suffered, like all Westerns, from that deep suspicion of Sabellianism which was rooted in the Eastern Churches. Nor are these the only reasons for the neglect of Hilary. Of his two chief works, the Homilies22 This is certainly the best translation of Tractatus; the word is discussed on a later page. on the Psalms, important as they were in popularising the allegorical method of interpretation, were soon outdone in favour by other commentaries; while his great controversial work on the Trinity suffered from its very perfection for the purpose with which it was composed. It seems, at first sight, to be not a refutation of Arianism, or of any particular phase of Arianism, but of one particular document, the Epistle of Arius to Alexander, in which Arian doctrines are expressed; and that a document which, in the constantly shifting phases of the controversy, soon fell into an oblivion which the work of Hilary has nearly shared. It is only incidentally constructive; its plan follows, in the central portion, that of the production of Arius which he was controverting, and this negative method must have lessened its popularity for purposes of practical instruction, and in competition with such a masterpiece as the De Trinitate of St. Augustine. And furthermore, Hilary never does himself justice. He was a great original thinker in the field of Christology, but he has never stated his views systematically and completely. They have to be laboriously reconstructed by the collection of passages scattered throughout his works; and though he is a thinker so consistent that little or no conjecture is needed for the piecing together of his system, yet we cannot be surprised full justice has never been done to him. He has been regarded chiefly as one of the sufferers from the violence of Constantius, as the composer of a useful conspectus of arguments against Arianism, as an unsuccessful negotiator for an understanding between the Eastern and Western Churches; but his sufferings were as nothing compared to those of Athanasius, while his influence in controversy seems to have been as small as the results of his diplomacy. It is not his practical share, in word or deed, in the conflicts of his day that is his chief title to fame, but his independence and depth as a Christian thinker. He has, indeed, exerted an important influence upon the growth of doctrine, but it has iibeen through the adoption of his views by Augustine and Ambrose; and many who have profited by his thoughts have never known who was their author.
Hilary of Poitiers, the most impersonal of writers, is so silent about himself, he is so rarely mentioned by contemporary writers—in all the voluminous works of Athanasius he is never once named,—and the ancient historians of the Church knew so little concerning him beyond what we, as well as they, can learn from his writings, that nothing more than a very scanty narrative can be constructed from these, as seen in the light of the general history of the time and combined with the few notices of him found elsewhere. But the account, though short, cannot be seriously defective. Apart from one or two episodes, it is eminently the history of a mind, and of a singularly consistent mind, whose antecedents we can, in the main, recognise, and whose changes of thought are few, and can be followed.
He was born, probably about the year 300 a.d.33 The latest date which I have seen assigned for his birth is 320, by Fechtrup, in Wetzer-Welte’s Encyclopædia. But this is surely inconsistent with his styling Ursacius and Valens, in his first Epistle to Constantine, ‘ignorant and unprincipled youths.’ This was written about the year 355 before Hilary knew much of the Arian controversy or the combatants, and was ludicrously inappropriate, for Ursacius and Valens were elderly men. He had found the words either in some of Athanasius’ writings or in the records of the Council of Sardica, and borrowed them without enquiry. He could not have done so had he been only some thirty-five years of age; at fifty-five they are natural enough., and almost certainly, since he was afterwards its bishop, in the town, or in the district dependent upon the town, by the name of which he is usually styled. Other names, beside Hilarius, he must have had, but we do not know them. The fact that he has had to be distinguished by the name of his see, to avoid confusion with his namesake of Arles, the contemporary of St. Augustine, shews how soon and how thoroughly personal details concerning him were forgotten. The rank of his parents must have been respectable at least, and perhaps high; so much we may safely assume from the education they gave him. Birth in the Gallic provinces during the fourth century brought with it no sense of provincial inferiority. Society was thoroughly Roman, and education and literature more vigorous, so far as we can judge, than in any other part of the West. The citizen of Gaul and of Northern Italy was, in fact, more in the centre of the world’s life than the inhabitant of Rome. Gaul was in the West what Roman Asia was in the East, the province of decisive importance, both for position and for wealth. And in this prosperous and highly civilised community the opportunities for the highest education were ample. We know, from Ausonius and otherwise, how complete was the provision for teaching at Bordeaux and elsewhere in Gaul. Greek was taught habitually as well as Latin. In fact, never since the days of Hadrian had educated society throughout the Empire been so nearly bilingual. It was not only that the Latin-speaking West had still to turn for its culture and its philosophy to the literature of Greece. Since the days of Diocletian the court, or at least the most important court, had resided as a rule in Asia, and Greek had tended to become, equally with Latin, the language of the courtier and the administrator. The two were of almost equal importance; if an Oriental like Ammianus Marcellinus could write, and write well, in Latin, we may be certain that, in return, Greek was familiar to educated Westerns. To Hilary it was certainly familiar from his youth; his earlier thoughts were moulded by Neoplatonism, and his later decisively influenced by the writings of Origen44 It is impossible to agree with Zingerle (Comment. Wölfflin. p. 218) that Hilary was under the necessity of using a Greek and Latin Glossary. Such a passage as Tract. in Ps. cxxxviii. 43, to which he appeals, shows rather the extent than the smallness of Hilary’s knowledge of Greek. What he frankly confesses, there as elsewhere, is ignorance of Hebrew. The words of Jerome (Ep. 34, 3 f.) about Hilary’s friend, the presbyter Heliodorus, to whom he used to refer for explanations of Origen on the Psalms, are equally incapable of being employed to prove Hilary’s defective Greek. Heliodorus knew Hebrew, and Hilary for want of Hebrew found Origen’s notes on the Hebrew text difficult to understand, and for this reason, according to Jerome, used to consult his friend; not because he was unfamiliar with Greek.. His literary and technical knowledge of Latin was also complete55 His vocabulary is very poorly treated in the dictionaries; one of the many signs of the neglect into which he has fallen. There are at least twenty-four words in the Tractatus super Psalmos which are omitted in the last edition of Georges’ lexicon, and these good Latin words, not technical terms invented for purposes of argument. Among the most interesting is quotiensque for quotienscumque; an unnoticed use is the frequent cum quando for quandoquidem. Of Hilary’s other writings there is as yet no trustworthy text; from them the list of new words could at least be doubled.. It would iiirequire wide special study and knowledge to fix his relation in matters of composition and rhetoric to other writers. But one assertion, that of Jerome66 Ep. 70, 5,ad Magnum., that Hilary was a deliberate imitator of the style of Quintilian, cannot be taken seriously. Jerome is the most reckless of writers; and it is at least possible to be somewhat familiar with the writings of both and yet see no resemblance, except in a certain sustained gravity, between them. Another description by Jerome of Hilary as ‘mounted on Gallic buskin and adorned with flowers of Greece’ is suitable enough, as to its first part, to Hilary’s dignified rhetoric; the flowers of Greece, if they mean embellishments inserted for their own sake, are not perceptible. In this same passage77 Ep. 58, 10,ad Paulinum. Jerome goes on to criticise Hilary’s entanglement in long periods, which renders him unsuitable for unlearned readers. But those laborious, yet perfectly constructed, sentences are an essential part of his method. Without them he could not attain the effect he desires; they are as deliberate and, in their way, as successful as the eccentricities of Tacitus. But when Jerome elsewhere calls Hilary ‘the Rhone of Latin eloquence88 Comm. in Gall. ii.pref.,’ he is speaking at random. It is only rarely that he breaks through his habitual sobriety of utterance; and his rare outbursts of devotion or denunciation are perhaps the more effective because the reader is unprepared to expect them. Such language as this of Jerome shews that Hilary’s literary accomplishments were recognised, even though it fails to describe them well. But though he had at his command, and avowedly employed, the resources of rhetoric in order that his words might be as worthy as he could make them of the greatness of his theme99 Cf. Tract. in Ps. xiii. 1, Trin. i. 38., yet some portions of the De Trinitate, and most of the Homilies on the Psalms are written in a singularly equable and almost conversational style, the unobtrusive excellence of which manifests the hand of a clear thinker and a practiced writer. He is no pedant1010 Yet he strangely reproaches his Old Latin Bible with the use of nimis for ualde, Tract. in Ps. cxxxviii. 38. This employment of relative for positive terms had been common in literature for at least a century and a half., no laborious imitator of antiquity, distant or near; he abstains, perhaps more completely than any other Christian writer of classical education, from the allusions to the poets which were the usual ornament of prose. He is an eminently businesslike writer; his pages, where they are unadorned, express his meaning with perfect clearness; where they are decked out with antithesis or apostrophe and other devices of rhetoric, they would no doubt, if our training could put us in sympathy with him, produce the effect upon us which he designed, and we must, in justice to him, remember as we read that, in their own kind, they are excellent, and that, whether they aid us or no in entering into his argument, they never obscure his thought. Save in the few passages when corruption exists in the text, it is never safe to assert that Hillary is unintelligible. The reader or translator who cannot follow or render the argument must rather lay the blame upon his own imperfect knowledge of the language and thought of the fourth century. Where he is stating or proving truth, whether well-established or newly ascertained, he is admirably precise; and even in his more dubious speculations he never cloaks a weak argument in ambiguous language. A loftier genius might have given us in language inadequate, through no fault of his own, to the attempt some intimations of remoter truths. We must be thankful to the sober Hilary that he, with his strong sense of the limitations of our intellect, has provided a clear and accurate statement of the case against Arianism, and has widened the bounds of theological knowledge by reasonable deductions from the text of Scripture, usually convincing and always suggestive.
ivHis training as a writer and thinker had certainly been accomplished before his conversion. His literary work done, like that of St. Cyprian, within a few years of middle life, displays, with a somewhat increasing maturity of thought, a steady uniformity of language and idiom, which can only have been acquired in his earlier days. And this assured possession of literary form was naturally accompanied by a philosophical training. Of one branch of a philosophical education, that of logic, there is almost too much evidence in his pages. He is free from the repulsive angularity which sometimes disfigures the pages of Novatian, a writer who had no great influence over him; but in the De Trinitate he too often refuses to trust his reader’s intelligence, and insists upon being logical not only in thought but in expression. But, sound premises being given, he may always be expected to draw the right conclusion. He is singularly free from confusion of thought, and never advances to results beyond what his premises warrant. It is only when a false, though accepted, exegesis misleads him, in certain collateral arguments which may be surrendered without loss to his main theses, that he can be refuted; or again when, in his ventures into new fields of thought, he is unfortunate in the selection or combination of texts. But in these cases, as always, the logical processes are not in fault; his deduction is clear and honest.
Philosophy in those days was regarded as incomplete unless it included some knowledge of natural phenomena, to be used for purposes of analogy. Origen and Athanasius display a considerable interest in, and acquaintance with, physical and physiological matters, and Hilary shares the taste. The conditions of human or animal birth and life and death are often discussed1111 E.g. Trin. v. 11, vii. 14, ix. 4.; he believes in universal remedies for disease1212 Trin. ii. 22., and knows of the employment of anæsthetics in surgery1313 Trin. x. 14. This is a very remarkable allusion. Celsus, vii. præf., confidently assumes that all surgical operation must be painful.. Sometimes he wanders further afield, as, for instance, in his account of the natural history of the fig-tree1414 Comm. in Matt. xxi. 8. and the worm1515 Trin. xi. 15., and in the curious little piece of information concerning Troglodytes and topazes, borrowed, he says, from secular writers, and still to be read in the elder Pliny1616 Tract. in Ps. cxviii. Ain. 16; it is from Plin. N.H. 37, 32.. Even where he seems to be borrowing, on rare occasions, from the commonplaces of Roman poetry, it is rather with the interest of the naturalist than of the rhetorician, as when he speaks in all seriousness of ‘Marsian enchantments and hissing vipers lulled to sleep1717 Tract. in Ps. lvii. 3. It suggests Virgil, Ovid, Silius, and others.,’ or recalls Lucan’s asps and basilisks of the African desert as a description of his heretical opponents1818 Trin. vii. 3.. Perhaps his lost work, twice mentioned by Jerome1919 Ep. 70, 5, Vir. Ill. 100., against the physician Dioscorus was a refutation of physical arguments against Christianity.
Hilary’s speculative thought, like that of every serious adherent of the pagan creed, had certainly been inspired by Neoplatonism. We cannot take the account of his spiritual progress up to the full Catholic faith, which he gives in the beginning of the De Trinitate, and of which we find a less finished sketch in the Homily on Psalm lxi. § 2, as literal history. It is too symmetrical in its advance through steadily increasing light to the perfect knowledge, too well prepared as a piece of literary workmanship—it is indeed an admirable example of majestic prose, a worthy preface to that great treatise—for us to accept it, as it stands, as the record of actual experience. But we may safely see in it the evidence that Hilary had been an earnest student of the best thought of his day, and had found in Neoplatonism not only a speculative training but also the desire, which was to find its satisfaction in the Faith, for knowledge of God, and for union with Him. It was a debt which Origen, his master, shared with him; and it must have been because, as a Neoplatonist feeling after the truth, he found so much of common ground in Origen, that he was able to accept so vfully the teaching of Alexandria. But it would be impossible to separate between the lessons which Hilary had learnt from the pagan form of this philosophy, and those which may have been new to him when he studied it in its Christian presentment. Of the influence of Christian Platonism upon him something will be said shortly. At this point we need only mention as a noteworthy indication of the fact that Hilary was not unmindful of the debt, that the only philosophy which he specifically attacks is the godless system of Epicurus, which denies creation, declares that the gods do not concern themselves with men, and deifies water or earth or atoms2020 Tract. in Ps. i. 7, lxi. 2, lxiii. 5, &c. As usual, Hilary does not name his opponents..
It was, then, as a man of mature age, of literary skill and philosophical training, that Hilary approached Christianity. He had been drawn towards the Faith by desire for a truth which he had not found in philosophy; and his conviction that this truth was Christianity was established by independent study of Scripture, not by intercourse with Christian teachers; so much we may safely conclude from the early pages of the De Trinitate. It must remain doubtful whether the works of Origen, who influenced his thought so profoundly, had fallen into his hands before his conversion, or whether it was as a Christian, seeking for further light upon the Faith, that he first studied them. For it is certainly improbable that he would find among the Christians of his own district many who could help him in intellectual difficulties. The educated classes were still largely pagan, and the Christian body, which was, we may say, unanimously and undoubtingly Catholic, held, without much mental activity, a traditional and inherited faith. Into this body Hilary entered by Baptism, at some unknown date. His age at the time, his employment, whether or no he was married2121 Hilary’s legendary daughter Abra, to whom he is said to have written a letter printed in the editions of his works, is now generally abandoned by the best authorities, e.g. by Fechtrup, the writer, in Wetzer-Welte’s Encyclopædia, of the best short life of Hilary., whether or no he entered the ministry of the Church of Poitiers, can never be known. It is only certain that he was strengthening his faith by thought and study.
He had come to the Faith, St. Augustine says2222 De Doctr. Chr. ii. 40., laden, like Cyprian, Lactantius and others, with the gold and silver and raiment of Egypt; and he would naturally wish to find a Christian employment for the philosophy which he brought with him. If his horizon had been limited to his neighbours in Gaul, he would have found little encouragement and less assistance. The oral teaching which prevailed in the West furnished, no doubt, safe guidance in doctrine, but could not supply reasons for the Faith. And reasons were the one great interest of Hilary. The whole practical side of Christianity as a system of life is ignored, or rather taken for granted and therefore not discussed, in his writings, which are ample enough to be a mirror of his thought. For instance, we cannot doubt that his belief concerning the Eucharist was that of the whole Church. Yet in the great treatise on the Trinity, of which no small part is given to the proof that Christ is God and Man, and that through this union must come the union of man with God, the Eucharist as a means to such union is only once introduced, and that in a short passage, and for the purpose of argument2323 Trin. viii. 13–17.. And altogether it would be as impossible to reconstruct the Christian life and thought of the day from his writings as from those of the half-pagan Arnobius. To such a mind as this the teaching which ordinary Christians needed and welcomed could bring no satisfaction, and no aid towards the interpretation of Scripture. The Western Church was, indeed, in an almost illogical position. Conviction was in advance of argument. The loyal practice of the Faith had led men on, as it were by intuition, to apprehend and firmly hold truths which the more thoughtful East was doubtfully and painfully approaching. Here, again, Hilary would be out of sympathy with his neighbours, and we cannot wonder that in such a doctrine vias that of the Holy Spirit he held the conservative Eastern view. Nor were the Latin speaking Churches well equipped with theological literature. The two2424 This is on the assumption, which seems probable, that Irenæus was not yet translated from the Greek. He certainly influenced Tertullian, and through him Hilary; and his doctrine of the recapitulation of mankind in Christ, reappearing as it does in Hilary, though not in Tertullian, suggests that our writer had made an independent study of Irenæus. Even if the present wretched translation existed, he would certainly read the Greek. great theologians who had as yet written in their tongue, Tertullian and Novatian, with the former of whom Hilary was familiar, were discredited by their personal history. St. Cyprian, the one doctor whom the West already boasted, could teach disciplined enthusiasm and Christian morality, but his scattered statements concerning points of doctrine convey nothing more than a general impression of piety and soundness; and even his arrangement, in the Testimonia, of Scriptural evidences was a poor weapon against the logical attack of Arianism. But there is little reason to suppose that there was any general sense of the need of a more systematic theology. Africa was paralysed, and the attention of the Western provinces probably engrossed, by the Donatist strife, into which questions of doctrine did not enter. The adjustment of the relations between Church and State, the instruction and government of the countless proselytes who flocked to the Faith while toleration grew into imperial favour, must have needed all the attention that the Church’s rulers could give. And these busy years had followed upon a generation of merciless persecution, during which change of practice or growth of thought had been impossible; and the confessors, naturally a conservative force, were one of the dominant powers in the church. We cannot be surprised that the scattered notices in Hilary’s writings of points of discipline, and his hortatory teaching, are in no respect different from what we find a century earlier in St. Cyprian. And men who were content to leave the superstructure as they found it were not likely to probe the foundations. Their belief grew in definiteness as the years went on, and faithful lives were rewarded, almost unconsciously, with a deeper insight into truth. But meanwhile they took the Faith as they had received it; one might say, as a matter of course. There was little heresy within the Western Church. Arianism was never prevalent enough to excite fear, even though repugnance were felt. The Churches were satisfied with faith and life as they saw it within and around them. Their religion was traditional, in no degenerate sense.
But such a religion could not satisfy ardent and logical minds, like those of St. Hilary and his two great successors, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine. To such men it was a necessity of their faith that they should know, and know in its right proportions, the truth so far as it had been revealed, and trace the appointed limits which human knowledge might not overpass. For their own assurance and for effective warfare against heresy a reasoned system of theology was necessary. Hilary, the earliest, had the greatest difficulty. To aid him in the interpretation of Scripture he had only one writer in his own tongue, Tertullian, whose teaching, in the matters which interested Hilary, though orthodox, was behind the times. His strong insistence upon the subordination of the Son to the Father, due to the same danger which still, in the fourth century, seemed in the East the most formidable, was not in harmony with the prevalent thought of the West. Thus Hilary, in his search for reasons for the Faith, was practically isolated; there was little at home which could help him to construct his system. To an intellect so self-reliant as his this may have been no great trial. Scrupulous though he was in confining his speculations within the bounds of inherited and acknowledged truth, yet in matters still undecided he exercised a singularly free judgment, now advancing beyond, now lingering behind, the usual belief of his contemporaries. In following out his thoughts, loyally yet independently, he was conscious that he was breaking what was new ground to his older fellow-Christians, almost as much as to himself, the convert viifrom Paganism. And that he was aware of the novelty is evident from the sparing use which he makes of that stock argument of the old controversialists, the newness of heresy. He uses it, e.g., in Trin. ii. 4, and uses it with effect; but it is far less prominent in him than in others.
For such independence of thought he could find precedent in Alexandrian theology, of which he was obviously a careful student and, in his free use of his own judgment upon it, a true disciple. When he was drawn into the Arian controversy and studied its literature, his thoughts to some extent were modified; but he never ceases to leave upon his reader the impression of an Oriental isolated in the West. From the Christian Platonists of Alexandria2525 Dr. Bigg’s Bampton Lectures upon them are full of hints for the student of Hilary. come his most characteristic thoughts. They have passed on, for instance, from Philo to him the sense of the importance of the revelation contained in the divine name He that is. His peculiar doctrine of the impassibility of the incarnate Christ is derived, more probably directly than indirectly, from Clement of Alexandria. But it is to Origen that Hilary stands in the closest and most constant relations, now as a pupil, now as a critic. In fact, as we shall see, no small portion of the Homilies on the Psalms, towards the end of the work, is devoted to the controverting of opinions expressed by Origen; and by an omission which is itself a criticism he completely ignores one of that writer’s most important contributions to Christian thought, the mystical interpretation of the Song of Songs. It is true that Jerome2626 Vir. Ill. 100. knew of a commentary on that Book which was doubtfully attributed to Hilary; but if Hilary had once accepted such an exegesis he could not possibly have failed to use it on some of the numerous occasions when it must have suggested itself in the course of his writing, for it is not his habit to allow a thought to drop out of his mind; his characteristic ideas recur again and again. In some cases we can actually watch the growth of Hilary’s mind as it emancipates itself from Origen’s influence; as, for instance, in his psychology. He begins (Comm. in Matt. v. 8) by holding, with Origen and Tertullian, that the soul is corporeal; in later life he states expressly that this is not the case2727 E.g. Tract. in Ps. cxxix. 4 f.. Yet what Hilary accepted from Origen is far more important than what he rejected. His strong sense of the dignity of man, of the freedom of the will, his philosophical belief in the inseparable connection of name and thing, the thought of the Incarnation as primarily an obscuring of the Divine glory2828 E.g. Trin. ix. 6., are some of the lessons which Origen has taught him. But, above all, it is to him that he owes his rudimentary doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit. Hilary says nothing inconsistent with the truth as it was soon to be universally recognised; but his caution in declining to accept, or at least to state, the general belief of Western Christendom that the Holy Spirit, since Christians are baptized in His Name as well as in that of Father and Son, is God in the same sense as They, is evidence both of his independence of the opinion around him and of his dependence on Origen. Of similar dependence on any other writer or school there is no trace. He knew Tertullian well, and there is some evidence that he knew Hippolytus and Novatian, but his thought was not moulded by theirs; and when, in the maturity of his powers, he became a fellow-combatant with Athanasius and the precursors of the great Cappadocians, his borrowing is not that of a disciple but of an equal.
There is one of St. Hilary’s writings, evidently the earliest of those extant and probably the earliest of all, which may be noticed here, as it gives no sign of being written by a Bishop. It is the Commentary on St. Matthew. It is, in the strictest sense, a commentary, and not, like the work upon the Psalms, a series of exegetical discourses. It deals with the text of the Gospel, as it stood in Hilary’s Latin version, without comment or criticism upon its peculiarities, and draws out the meaning, chiefly allegorical, not of the whole Gospel, viiibut apparently of lections that were read in public worship. A few pages at the beginning and end are unfortunately lost, but they cannot have contained anything of such importance as to alter the impression which we form of the book. In diction and grammar it is exactly similar to Hilary’s later writings; the fact that it is, perhaps, somewhat more stiff in style may be due to self-consciousness of a writer venturing for the first time upon so important a subject. The exegesis is often the same as that of Origen, but a comparison of the several passages in which Jerome mentions this commentary makes it certain that it is not dependent upon him in the same way as are the Homilies on the Psalms and Hilary’s lost work upon Job. Yet if he is not in this work the translator, or editor, of Origen, he is manifestly his disciple. We cannot account for the resemblance otherwise. Hilary is independently working out Origen’s thoughts on Origen’s lines. Origen is not named, nor any other author, except that he excuses himself from expounding the Lord’s Prayer on the ground that Tertullian and Cyprian had written excellent treatises upon it2929 Comm. in Matt. v. 1. It may be mentioned that the chapters of the Commentary do not coincide with those of the Gospel.. This is a rare exception to his habit of not naming other writers. But, whoever the writers were from whom Hilary drew his exegesis, his theology is his own. There is no immaturity in the thought; every one of his characteristic ideas, as will be seen in the next chapter, is already to be found here. But there is one interesting landmark in the growth of the Latin theological vocabulary, very archaic in itself and an evidence that Hilary had not yet decided upon the terms that he would use. He twice3030 Comm. in Matt. xvi. 4, theotetam quam deitatem Latini nuncupant, xxvi. 5, theotetam quam deitatem nuncupamus. The strange accusative theotetam makes it the more probable that we have here a specimen of the primitive Greek vocabulary of Latin Christendom of which so few examples, e.g. Baptism and Eucharist, have survived. Cyprian had probably the chief share in destroying it; but the subject has never been examined as it deserves. speaks of Christ’s Divinity as ‘the theotes which we call deitas.’ In his later writings he consistently uses divinitas, except in the few instances where he is almost forced, to avoid intolerable monotony, to vary it with deitas; and in his commentary he would not have used either of these words, still less would he have used both, unless he were feeling his way to a fixed technical term. Another witness to the early date of the work is the absence of any clear sign that Hilary knew of the existence of Arianism. He knows, indeed, that there are heresies which impugn the Godhead of Christ3131 So especially xii. 18. There is similarly a possible allusion to Marcellus’ teaching in xi. 9, which, however, may equally well be a reminiscence of some cognate earlier heresy., and in consequence states that doctrine with great precision, and frequently as well as forcibly. But it has been pointed out3232 Maffei’s Introduction, §15. that he discusses many texts which served, in the Arian strife, for attack or defence, without alluding to that burning question: and this would have been impossible and, indeed, a dereliction of duty, in Hilary’s later life. And there is one passage3333 xxxi. 3, penes quem erat antequam nasceretur in which he speaks of God the Father as ‘He with (or ‘in’) Whom the Word was before He was born.’ The Incarnation is spoken of in words which would usually denote the eternal Generation: and if a candid reader could not be misled, yet an opportunity is given to the malevolent which Hilary or, indeed, any careful writer engaged in the Arian controversy would have avoided. The Commentary, then, is an early work, yet in no respect unworthy of its author. But though he had developed his characteristic thoughts before he began to write it, they are certainly less prominent here than in the treatises which followed. It is chiefly remarkable for its display of allegorical ingenuity. Its pages are full of fantastic interpretations of the kind which he had so great a share in introducing into Western Europe3434 See Ebert, Litteratur des Mittelalters, i. 139.. He started by it a movement which he would have been powerless to stop; that he was not altogether satisfied with the principle of allegory is shewn by the more modest use that he made of it when he composed, with fuller experience, the Homilies on the Psalms. It is, perhaps, only natural that there is little allegorism in the De Trinitate. Such a hot-house growth could not thrive in the keen ixair of controversy. As for the Commentary on St. Matthew, its chief influence has been indirect, in that St. Ambrose made large use of it in his own work upon the same Gospel. The consideration of Hilary’s use of Scripture and of the place which it held in his system of theology is reserved for the next chapter, where illustrations from this Commentary are given.
About the year 350 Hilary was consecrated Bishop of Poitiers. So we may infer from his own words3535 Syn. 91; regeneratus pridem et in episcopatu aliquantisper manens. The renderings ‘long ago’ and ‘for some time’ in this translation seem rather too strong. that he had been a good while regenerate, and for some little time a bishop, on the eve of his exile in 356 a.d. Whether, like Ambrose, he was raised directly from lay life to the Episcopate cannot be known. It is at least possible that this was the case. His position as a bishop was one of great importance, and, as it must have seemed, free from special difficulties. There was a wide difference between the Church organisation of the Latin-speaking provinces of the Empire (with the exception of Central and Southern Italy and of Africa, in each of which a multitude of insignificant sees were dependent upon the autocracy of Rome and Carthage respectively) and that of the Greek-speaking provinces of the East. In the former there was a mere handful of dioceses, of huge geographical extent; in the latter every town, at least in the more civilised parts, had its bishop. The Western bishops were inevitably isolated from one another, and could exercise none of that constant surveillance over each other’s orthodoxy which was, for evil as well as for good, so marked a feature of the Church life of the East. And the very greatness of their position gave them stability. The equipoise of power was too perfect, the hands in which it was vested too few, the men themselves, probably, too statesmanlike, for the Western Church to be infected with that nervous agitation which possessed the shifting multitudes of Eastern prelates, and made them suspicious and loquacious and disastrously eager for compromise. It was, in fact, the custom of the West to take the orthodoxy of its bishops for granted, and an external impulse was necessary before they could be overthrown. The two great sees with which Hilary was in immediate relation were those of Arles and Milan, and both were in Arian hands. But it needed the direct incitation of a hostile Emperor to set Saturninus against Hilary; and it was in vain that Hilary, in the floodtide of orthodox revival in the West, attacked Auxentius. The orthodox Emperor upheld the Arian, who survived Hilary by eight years and died in possession of his see. But this great and secure position of the Western bishop had its drawbacks. Hilary was conscious of its greatness3636 E.g. Trin. viii. 1. The bishop is a prince of the Church. and strove to be worthy of it; but it was a greatness of responsibility to which neither he, nor any other man, could be equal. For in his eyes the bishop was still, as he had been in the little Churches of the past, and still might be in quiet places of the East or South, the sole priest, sacerdos3737 Sacerdos in Hilary, as in all writers till near the end of the fourth century, means ‘bishop’ always., of his flock. In his exile he reminds the Emperor that he is still distributing the communion through his presbyters to the Church. This survival can have had none but evil results. It put both bishop and clergy in a false position. The latter were degraded by the denial to them of a definite status and rights of their own. Authority without influence and information in lieu of knowledge was all for which the former could hope. And this lack of any organised means of influencing a wide-spread flock—such a diocese as that of Poitiers must have been several times as large as a rural diocese of England—prevented its bishop from creating any strong public opinion within it, unless he were an evangelist with the gifts of a Martin of Tours. It was impossible for him to excite in so unwieldy a district any popular enthusiasm or devotion to himself. Unlike an Athanasius, he could be deported into exile at the Emperor’s will with as little commotion as the bishop of some petty half-Greek town in Asia Minor.
xDuring the first years of Hilary’s episcopate there was civil turmoil in Gaul, but the Church was at peace. While the Eastern ruler Constantius favoured the Arians, partly misled by unprincipled advisers and partly guided by an unwise, though honest, desire for compromise in the interests of peace, his brother Constans, who reigned in the West, upheld the Catholic cause, to which the immense majority of his clergy and people was attached. He was slain in January, 350, by the usurper Magnentius, who, with whatever motives, took the same side. It was certainly that which would best conciliate his own subjects; but he went further, and attempted to strengthen his precarious throne against the impending attack of Constantius by negotiations with the discontented Nicene Christians of the East. He tried to win over Athanasius, who was, however, too wise to listen; and, in any case, he gained nothing by tampering with the subjects of Constantius. Constantius defeated Magnentius, pursued him, and finally slew him on the 11th August, 353, and was then undisputed master not only of the East but of the West, which he proceeded to bring into ecclesiastical conformity, as far as he could, with his former dominions.
The general history of Arianism and the tendencies of Christian thought at this time have been so fully and admirably delineated in the introduction to the translation of St. Athanasius in this series3838 By Dr. Robertson of King’s College, London. This, and Professor Gwatkin’s Studies of Arianism, are the best English accounts., that it would be superfluous and presumptuous to go over the same ground. It must suffice to say that Constantius was animated with a strong personal hatred against Athanasius, and that the prelates at his court seem to have found their chief employment in intrigues for the expulsion of bishops, whose seats might be filled by friends of their own. Athanasius was a formidable antagonist, from his strong position in Alexandria, even to an Emperor; and Constantius was attempting to weaken him by creating an impression that he was unworthy of the high esteem in which he was held. Even in the East, as yet, the Nicene doctrine was not avowedly rejected; still less could the doctrinal issue be raised in Gaul, where the truths stated in the Nicene Creed were regarded as so obvious that the Creed itself had excited little interest or attention. Hilary at this time had never heard it3939 Syn. 91., though nearly thirty years had passed since the Council decreed it. But there were personal charges against Athanasius, of which he has himself given us a full and interesting account4040 The Apologia contra Arianos, p. 100 ff. in Dr. Robertson’s translation., which had done him, and were to do him, serious injury. They had been disproved publicly and completely more than once, and with great solemnity and apparent finality ten years before this, at Sardica in 343 a.d. But in a distant province, aided by the application of sufficient pressure, they might serve their turn, and if the Emperor could obtain his enemy’s condemnation, and that in a region whose theological sympathies were notoriously on his side, a great step would be gained towards his expulsion from Egypt. No time was lost. In October, 353, a Council was called at Arles to consider the charges. It suited Constantius’ purpose well that Saturninus of Arles, bishop of the most important see in Gaul, and the natural president, was both a courtier and an Arian. He did his work well. The assembled bishops believed, or were induced to profess that they believed, that the charges against Athanasius were not made in the interests of his theological opponents, and that the Emperor’s account of them was true. The decision, condemning the accused, was almost unanimous. Even the representative of Liberius of Rome consented, to be disavowed on his return; and only one bishop, Paulinus of Treves, suffered exile for resistance. He may have been the only advocate for Athanasius, or Constantius may have thought that one example would suffice to terrify the episcopate of Gaul into submission. It is impossible to say whether Hilary was present at the Council or no. It is not probable that he was absent: and his ignorance, even later, on important points in the dispute shows that he may xiwell have given an honest verdict against Athanasius. The new ruler’s word had been given that he was guilty; nothing can yet have been known against Constantius and much must have been hoped from him. It was only natural that he should obtain the desired decision. Two years followed, during which the Emperor was too busy with warfare on the frontiers of Gaul to proceed further in the matter of Athanasius. But in the Autumn of 355 he summoned a Council at Milan, a city whose influence over Gaul was so great that it might almost be called the ecclesiastical capital of that country. Here again strong pressure was used, and the verdict given as Constantius desired. Hilary was not present at this Council; he was by this time aware of the motives of Constantius and the courtier bishops, and would certainly have shared in the opposition offered, and probably in the exile inflicted upon three of the leaders in it. These were Dionysius of Milan, who disappears from history, his place being taken by Hilary’s future enemy, Auxentius, and Eusebius of Vercelli and Lucifer of Cagliari, both of whom were to make their mark in the future.
By this time Hilary had definitely taken his side, and it will be well to consider his relation to the parties in the controversy. And first as to Arianism. As we have seen, Arian prelates were now in possession of the two great sees of Arles and Milan in his own neighbourhood; and Arianisers of different shades, or at least men tolerant of Arianism, held a clear majority of the Eastern bishoprics, except in the wholly Catholic Egypt. But it is certain that, in the West at any rate, the fundamental difference of the Arian from the Catholic position was not generally recognised. Arian practice and Arian practical teaching was indistinguishable from Catholic; and unless ultimate principles were questioned, Catholic clergy might work, and the multitudes of Catholic laity might live and die, without knowing that their bishop’s creed was different from their own. The Abbé Duchesne has made the very probable suggestion that the stately Ambrosian ritual of Milan was really introduced from the East by Auxentius, the Arian intruder from Cappadocia, of whom we have spoken4141 Origines du culte chrétien, p. 88.. Arian Baptism and the Arian Eucharist were exactly the same as the Catholic. They were not sceptical; they accepted all current beliefs or superstitions, and had their own confessors and workers of miracles4242 Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism, p. 134.. The Bible was common ground to both parties: each professed its confidence that it had the support of Scripture. “No false system ever struck more directly at the life of Christianity than Arianism. Yet after all it held aloft the Lord’s example as the Son of Man, and never wavered in its worship of Him as the Son of God4343 Ib., p. 28..” And the leaders of this school were in possession of many of the great places of the Church, and asserted that they had the right to hold them; that if they had not the sole right, at least they had as good a right as the Catholics, to be bishops, and yet to teach the doctrine that Christ was a creature, not the Son. And what made things worse was that they seemed to be at one with the Catholics, and that it was possible, and indeed almost inevitable, that the multitudes who did not look below the surface should be satisfied to take them for what they seemed. Many of the Arians no doubt honestly thought that their position was a tenable one, and held their offices with a good conscience; but we cannot wonder that men like Athanasius and Hilary, aware of the sophistical nature of many of the arguments used, and knowing that some, at least, of the leaders were unscrupulous adventurers, should have regarded all Arianism and all Arians as deliberately dishonest. It seemed incredible that they could be sincerely at home in the Church, and intolerable that they should have the power of deceiving the people and persecuting true believers. It is against Arianism in the church that Hilary’s efforts are directed, not against Arianism as an external heresy. He ignores heresies outside the Church as completely as does Cyprian; they xiiare outside, and therefore he has nothing to do with them. But Arianism, as represented by an Auxentius or a Saturninus, is an internum malum4444 Trin. vii. 3.; and to the extirpation of this ‘inward evil’ the remaining years of his life were to be devoted.
His own devotion, from the time of his conversion to the Catholic Faith, which almost all around him held, was not the less sincere because it did not find its natural expression in the Nicene Creed. That document, which primarily concerned only bishops, and them only when their orthodoxy was in question, was hardly known in the West, where the bishops had as yet had little occasion for doubting one another’s faith. Hilary had never heard it,—he can hardly have avoided hearing of it,—till just before his exile. In his earlier conflicts he rarely mentions it, and when he does it is in connection with the local circumstances of the East. In later life he, with Western Christendom at large, recognised its value as a rallying point for the faithful; but even then there is no attachment to the Creed for its own sake. It might almost seem that the Creed, by his defence of which Athanasius has earned such glory, owed its original celebrity to him rather than he to it. His unjust persecution and heroic endurance excited interest in the symbol of which he was the champion. If it were otherwise, there has been a strange conspiracy of silence among Western theologians. In their great works on the Trinity, Hilary most rarely, and Augustine never, allude to it; the Council of Aquileia, held in the same interests and almost at the same time as that of Constantinople in 381, absolutely ignores it4545 There is much more evidence to this effect in Reuter, Augustinische Studien, p. 182 f. It was probably due to jealousy between West and East; cf. the way in which John of Jerusalem ignored the African decision in Pelagius’ case. But the West was ignorant, as well as jealous, of the East. Even in his last years, after his sojourn in Asia Minor, Hilary believed that Jerusalem was, as had been prophesied, an uninhabited ruin; Tr. in Ps. cxxiv. § 2, cxxxi. §§ 18, 23, cxlvi. § 1.. The Creed, in the year 355, was little known in the West and unpopular in the East. Even Athanasius kept it somewhat in the background, from reasons of prudence, and Hilary’s sympathies, as we shall see, were with the Eastern School which could accept the truth, though they disliked this expression of it.
The time had now come for Hilary, holding these views of Arianism and of the Faith, to take an active part in the conflict. We have seen that he was not at Milan; he was therefore not personally compromised, but the honour of the Church compelled him to move. He exerted himself to induce the bishops of Gaul to withdraw from communion with Saturninus, and with Ursacius and Valens, disciples of Arius during his exile on the banks of the Danube thirty years before, and now high in favour with Constantius, and his ministers, we might almost say, for the ecclesiastical affairs of the Western provinces. We do not know how many bishops were enlisted by Hilary against Saturninus. It is probable that not many would follow him in so bold a venture; even men of like mind with himself might well think it unwise. It was almost a revolutionary act; an importation of the methods of Eastern controversy into the peaceful West, for this was not the constitutional action of a synod but the private venture of Hilary and his allies. However righteous and necessary, in the interests of morality and religion, their conduct may have seemed to them, to Constantius and his advisers it must have appeared an act of defiance to the law, both of Church and State. And Hilary would certainly not win favour with the Emperor by his letter of protest, the First Epistle to Constantius, written about the end of the year 355. He adopts the usual tone of the time, that of exaggerated laudation and even servility towards the Emperor. Such language was, of course, in great measure conventional; we know from Cicero’s letters how little superlatives, whether of flattery or abuse, need mean, and language had certainly not grown more sincere under the Empire. The letter was, in fact, a singularly bold manifesto, and one which Hilary himself must have foreseen was likely to bring upon him the xiiipunishment which had befallen the recusants at Arles and Milan. He begins (§ 1) in studiously general terms, making no mention of the provinces in which the offenses were being committed, with a complaint of the tyrannical interference of civil officers in religious matters. If there is to be peace (§ 2), there must be liberty; Catholics must not be forced to become Arians. The voice of resistance was being raised; men were beginning to say that it was better to die than to see the faith defiled at the bidding of an individual. Equity required that God-fearing men should not suffer by compulsory intercourse with the teachers of execrable blasphemy, but be allowed bishops whom they could obey with a good conscience. Truth and falsehood, light and darkness could not combine. He entreated the Emperor to allow the people to choose for themselves to what teachers they would listen, with whom they would join in the Eucharist and in prayer for him. Next (§ 3) he denies that there is any purpose of treason, or any discontent. The only disturbance is that caused by Arian propagators of heresy, who are busily engaged in misleading the ignorant. He now (§ 4) prays that the excellent bishops who have been sent into exile may be restored; liberty and joy would be the result. Then (§ 5) he attacks the modern and deadly Arian pestilence. Borrowing, somewhat incautiously, the words of the Council of Sardica, now twelve years old, he gives a list of Arian chiefs which ends with “those two ignorant and unprincipled youths, Ursacius and Valens.” Communion with such men as these, even communion in ignorance, is a participation in their guilt, a fatal sin. He proceeds, in § 6, to combine denunciation of the atrocities committed in Egypt with a splendid plea for liberty of conscience; it is equally vain and wicked to attempt to drive men into Arianism, and an enforced faith is, in any case, worthless. The Arians (§ 7) were themselves legally convicted long ago and Athanasius acquitted; it is a perversion of justice that the condemned should now be intriguing against one so upright and so faithful to the truth. And lastly (§ 8) he comes to the wrong just done at Milan, and tells the well-known story of the violence practiced upon Eusebius of Vercelli and others in the ‘Synagogue of malignants,’ as he calls it. Here also he takes occasion to speak of Paulinus of Treves, exiled for his resistance at Arles two years before, where he “had withstood the monstrous crimes of those men.” The conclusion of the letter is unfortunately lost, and there are one or more gaps in the body of it; these, we may judge, would only have made it more unacceptable to Constantius.
It was, indeed, from the Emperor’s point of view, a most provocatory Epistle. He and his advisers were convinced that compromise was the way of peace. They had no quarrel with the orthodoxy of the West, if only that orthodoxy would concede that Arianisers were entitled to office in the Church, or would at least be silent; and they were animated by a persistent hatred of Athanasius. Moreover, the whole tendency of thought, since Constantine began to favour the Church, had run towards glorification of the Emperor as the vice-regent of God; and the orthodox had had their full share in encouraging the idea. That a bishop, with no status to justify his interference, should renounce communion with his own superior, the Emperor’s friend, at Arles; should forbid the officers of state to meddle in the Church’s affairs, and demand an entirely new thing, recognition by the state as lawful members of the Church while yet they rejected the prelates whom the state recognised; should declare that peace was impossible because the conflicting doctrines were as different as light and darkness, and that the Emperor’s friends were execrable heretics; should assert, while denying that he or his friends had any treasonable purpose, that men were ready to die rather than submit; should denounce two Councils, lawfully held, and demand reinstatement of those who had opposed the decision of those Councils; should, above all, take the part of Athanasius, now obviously doomed to another exile;—all this must have savoured of rebellion. And rebellion was no imaginary danger. xivWe have seen that Magnentius had tried to enlist Athanasius on his side against the Arian Emperor. Constantius was but a new ruler over Gaul, and had no claim, through services rendered, to its loyalty. He might reasonably construe Hilary’s words into a threat that the orthodox of Gaul would, if their wishes were disregarded, support an orthodox pretender. And there was a special reason for suspicion. At this very time Constantius had just conferred the government of the West upon his cousin Julian, who was installed as Cæsar on the 6th November, 355. From the first, probably, Constantius distrusted Julian, and Julian certainly distrusted Constantius. Thus it might well seem that the materials were ready for an explosion; that a disloyal Cæsar would find ready allies in discontented Catholics.
We cannot wonder that Hilary’s letter had no effect upon the policy of Constantius. It is somewhat surprising that several months elapsed before he was punished. In the spring of the year 356 Saturninus presided at a Council held at Béziers, at which Hilary was, he tells us, compelled to attend. In what the compulsion consisted we do not know. It may simply have been that he was summoned to attend; a summons which he could not with dignity refuse, knowing, as he must have done, that charges would be brought against himself. Of the proceedings of the Synod we know little. The complaints against Hilary concerned his conduct, not his faith. This latter was, of course, above suspicion, and it was not the policy of the court party to attack orthodoxy in Gaul. He seems to have been charged with exciting popular discontent; and this, as we have seen, was an accusation which his own letter had rendered plausible. He tried to raise the question of the Faith, challenging the doctrine of his opponents. But though a large majority of a council of Gallic bishops would certainly be in sympathy with him, he had no success. Their position was not threatened; Hilary, like Paulinus, was accused of no doctrinal error, and these victims of Constantius, if they had raised no questions concerning their neighbours’ faith and made no objections to the Emperor’s tyranny, might also have passed their days in peace. The tone of the episcopate in Gaul was, in fact, by no means heroic. If we may trust Sulpicius Severus4646 Chron. ii. 39., in all these Councils the opposition was prepared to accept the Emperor’s word about Athanasius, and excommunicate him, if the general question of the Faith might be discussed. But the condition was evaded, and the issue never frankly raised; and, if it was cowardly, it was not unnatural that Hilary should have been condemned by the Synod, and condemned almost unanimously. Only Rodanius of Toulouse was punished with him; the sufferers would certainly have been more numerous had there been any strenuous remonstrance against the injustice. The Synod sent their decision to the Cæsar Julian, their immediate ruler. Julian took no action; he may have felt that the matter was too serious for him to decide without reference to the Emperor, but it is more likely that he had no wish to outrage the dominant Church feeling of Gaul and alienate sympathies which he might need in the future. In any case he refused to pass a sentence which he must have known would be in accordance with the Emperor’s desire; and the vote of the Synod, condemning Hilary, was sent to Constantius himself. He acted upon it at once, and in the summer of the same year, 356, Hilary was exiled to the diocese, or civil district comprising several provinces, of Asia.
We now come to the most important period of Hilary’s life. He was already, as we have seen, a Greek scholar and a follower of Greek theology. He was now to come into immediate contact with the great problems of the day in the field on which they were being constantly debated. And he was well prepared to take his part. He had formed his own convictions before he was acquainted with homoousion, homoiousion or the Nicene xvCreed4747 Syn. 91.. He was therefore in full sympathy with Athanasius on the main point. And his manner of treating the controversy shews that the policy of Athanasius was also, in a great measure, his. Like Athanasius, he spares Marcellus as much as possible. We know that Athanasius till the end refused to condemn him, though one of the most formidable weapons in the armoury of the Anti-Nicene party was the conjunction in which they could plausibly put their two names, as those of the most strenuous opponents of Arianism. Similarly Hilary never names Marcellus4848 This sparing of Marcellus, in the case of a Western like Hilary, may have been a concession to the incapacity of the West, e.g. Julius of Rome and the Council of Sardica, to see his error. But this is not so likely as that it was a falling in with the general policy of Athanasius, as was the rare mention of the homoousion; cf. Gwatkin, op. cit. 42 n. Hilary was singularly independent of Western opinion, and his whole aim was to win the East., as he never names Apollinaris, though he had the keenest sense of the danger involved in either heresy, and argues forcibly and often against both. Like Athanasius again, he has no mercy upon Photinus the disciple, while he spares Marcellus the master; and it is a small, though clear, sign of dependence that he occasionally applies Athanasius’ nickname of Ariomanitæ, or ‘Arian lunatics,’ to his opponents. It is certain that Hilary was familiar with the writings of Athanasius, and borrowed freely from them. But so little has yet been done towards ascertaining the progress of Christian thought and the extent of each writer’s contribution to it, that it is impossible to say which arguments were already current and may have been independently adopted by Hilary and by Athanasius, and for which the former is indebted to the latter4949 No such examination seems to have been made as that to which Reuter in his admirable Augustinische Studien has subjected some of the thoughts of St. Augustine.. Yet it is universally recognised that the debt exists; and Hilary’s greatness as a theologian5050 Harnack, Dogmengeschichte, ii. p. 243 n. (ed. 3). Hilary is, ‘making all allowance for dependence on Athanasius, an independent thinker, who has, indeed, excelled the bishop of Alexandria as a theologian.’, his mastery of the subject, would embolden him to borrow and adapt the more freely that he was dealing as with an equal and a fellow-combatant in the same cause.
Athanasius and Hilary can never have met face to face. But the eyes and the agents of Athanasius were everywhere, and he must have known something of the exile and of the services of Hilary, who was, of course, well acquainted with the history of Athanasius, though, with the rest of Gaul, he may not have been whole-hearted in his defence. And now he was the more likely to be drawn towards him because this was the time of his approximation to the younger generation of the Conservative School. For it is with them that Hilary’s affinities are closest and most obvious. The great Cappadocians were devoted Origenists—we know the service they rendered to their master by the publication of the Philocalia,—and there could be no stronger bond of union between Hilary and themselves. They were the outgrowth of that great Asiatic school to which the name of Semiarians, somewhat unkindly given by Epiphanius, has clung, and which was steadily increasing in influence over the thought of Asia, the dominant province, at this time, of the whole Empire. Gregory of Nazianzus, the eldest of the three great writers, was probably not more than twenty-five years of age when Hilary was sent into exile, and none of them can have seriously affected even his latest works. But they represented, in a more perfect form, the teaching of the best men of the Conservative School; and when we find that Hilary, who was old enough to be the father of Basil and the two Gregories, has thoughts in common with them which are not to be found in Athanasius, we may safely assign this peculiar teaching to the influence upon Hilary, predisposed by his loyalty to Origen to listen to the representatives of the Origenist tradition, of this school of theology. We see one side of this influence in Hilary’s understatement of the doctrine of the Holy Ghost. The Semiarians were coming to be of one mind with the Nicenes as to the consubstantial Deity of the Son; none of them, in all probability, at this time would have admitted the xviconsubstantial Deity of the Spirit, and the unity of their School was to be wrecked in future years upon this point. The fact that Hilary could use language so reserved upon this subject must have led them to welcome his alliance the more heartily. Neither he nor they could foresee the future of the doctrine, and both sides must have sincerely thought that they were at one. And, indeed, on Hilary’s part there was a great willingness to believe in this unity, which led him, as we shall see, into an unfortunate attempt at ecclesiastical diplomacy. Another evidence of contact with this Eastern School, but at its most advanced point, is the remarkable expression, ‘Only-begotten God,’ which Hilary ‘employs with startling freedom, evidently as the natural expression of his own inmost thought5151 Hort, Two Dissertations, p. 27..’ Dr. Hort, whose words these are, states that the term is used by Athanasius only twice, once in youth and once in old age; but that, on the other hand, it is familiar to two of the Cappadocians, Basil and Gregory of Nyssa. They must have learned it from some Asiatic writer known to Hilary as a contemporary, to them as successors. And when we find Hilary5252 Trin. viii. 40. rejecting the baptism of heretics, and so putting himself in opposition to what had been the Roman view for a century and that of Gaul since the Council of Arles in 314, and then find this opinion echoed by Gregory of Nazianzus5353 Cf. Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism, p. 130., we are reminded not only of Hilary’s general independence of thought, but of the circumstance that St. Cyprian found his stoutest ally in contesting this same point in the Cappadocian Firmilian. A comparison of the two sets of writings would probably lead to the discovery of more coincidences than have yet been noticed; of the fact itself, of ‘the Semiarian influence so visible in the De Synodis of Hilary, and even in his own later work5454 Ib., p. 159. It would not be fair to judge Hilary by the de Synodis alone. The would-be diplomatist, in his eagerness to bring about a reconciliation, is not quite just either to the facts or to his own feelings.,’ there can be no doubt.
With these affinities, with an adequate knowledge of the Greek language and a strong sympathy, as well as a great familiarity, with Greek modes of thought, Hilary found himself in the summer of the year 356 an exile in Asia Minor. It was exile in the most favourable circumstances. He was still bishop of Poitiers, recognised as such by the government, which only forbade him, for reasons of state ostensibly not connected with theology, to reside within his diocese. He held free communication with his fellow-bishops in Gaul, and was allowed to administer his own diocese, so far as administration by letter was possible, without interruption. And his diocese did not forget him. We learn from Sulpicius Severus5555 Chron. ii. 39. that he and the others of the little band of exiles, who had suffered at Arles, and Milan, and Béziers, were the heroes of the day in their own country. That orthodox bishops should suffer for the Faith was a new thing in the West; we cannot wonder that subsidies were raised for their support and delegations sent to assure them of the sympathy of their flocks. To a man like Hilary, of energy and ability, of recognised episcopal rank and unimpeached orthodoxy, the position offered not less but more opportunities of service than hitherto he had enjoyed. For no restriction was put upon his movements, so long as he kept within the wide bounds allotted him. He had perfect leisure for travel or for study, the money needed for the expense of his journeys, and something of the glory, still very real, with which the confessor was invested. And his movements were confined to the very region where he could learn most concerning the question of the hour, and do most for its solution. In fact, in sending Hilary into such an exile as this, Constantius had done too much, or too little; he had injured, and not advanced, his own favourite cause of unity by way of compromise. In this instance, as in those of Arius and Athanasius and many others, exile became an efficacious means for xviithe spreading and strengthening of convictions. If Hilary had no great success, as we shall see, in the Council which he attended, yet his presence, during these critical years, in a region where men were gradually advancing to the fuller truth cannot have been without influence upon their spiritual growth; and his residence in Asia no doubt confirmed and enriched his own apprehension of the Faith.
It is certain that Hilary was busily engaged in writing his great work upon the Trinity, and that some parts of it were actually published, during his exile. But as this work in its final form would appear to belong to the next stage of Hilary’s life, it will be well to postpone its consideration for the present, and proceed at once to his share in the conciliar action of the time. We have no information concerning his conduct before the year 358, but it is necessary to say something about the important events which preceded his publication of the De Synodis and his participation in the Council of Seleucia.
It was a time when new combinations of parties were being formed. Arianism was shewing itself openly, as it had not dared to do since Nicæa. In 357 Hilary’s adversaries, Ursacius and Valens, in a Synod at Sirmium, published a creed which was Arian without concealment; it was, indeed, as serious a blow to the Emperor’s policy of compromise as anything that Athanasius or Hilary had ventured. But it was the work of friends of the Emperor, and shewed that, for the moment at any rate, the Court had been won over to the extreme party. But the forces of Conservatism were still the strongest. Within a few months, early in 358, the great Asiatic prelates, soon to be divided over the question of the Godhead of the Holy Spirit but still at one, Basil of Ancyra, Macedonius and others, met at Ancyra and repudiated Arianism while ignoring, after their manner, the Nicene definition. Then their delegates proceeded to the Court, now at Sirmium, and won Constantius back to his old position. Ursacius and Valens, who had no scruples, signed a Conservative creed, as did the weak Liberius of Rome, anxious to escape from an exile to which he had been consigned soon after the banishment of Hilary. It was a great triumph to have induced so prominent a bishop to minimise—we cannot say that he denied—his own belief and that of the Western churches. And the Asiatic leaders were determined to have the spoils of victory. Liberius, of course, was allowed to return home, for he had proved compliant, and the Conservatives had no quarrel with those who held the homoousion. But the most prominent of the Arian leaders, those who had the courage of their conviction, to the number, it is said, of seventy, were exiled. It is true that Constantius was quickly persuaded by other influences to restore them; but the theological difference was embittered by the sense of personal injury, and further conflicts rendered inevitable between Conservatives and Arians.
It was with this Conservative party, victorious for the moment, that Hilary had to deal. Its leaders, and especially Basil of Ancyra, had the ear of the Emperor, and seemed to hold the future of the Church in their hands. Hilary was on friendly terms with Basil, with whom, as we have seen, he had much in common, and corresponded on his behalf with the Western Bishops. He was, indeed, by the peculiar combination in him of the Eastern and the Western, perhaps the only man who could have played the part he undertook. He was thoroughly and outspokenly orthodox, yet had no prejudice in favour of the Nicene definition. He would have been content, like the earlier generation of Eastern bishops, with a simple formulary; the Apostles’ Creed, the traditional standard of the West, satisfied the exigencies even of his own precise thought. And if a personal jealousy of Athanasius and his school on the part of the Asiatic Conservatives was one of the chief obstacles to peace, here again Hilary had certain advantages. We have seen that there was no personal communication between him and Athanasius; he could ignore, and may even have been ignorant of, the antipathy of Asia to Alexandria. And he was no absolute follower of Athanasius’ teaching. We saw that in some important respects he was an independent xviiithinker, and that in others he is on common ground with the Cappadocians, the heirs of the best thought of such men as Basil of Ancyra. Nor could he labour under any suspicion of being involved in the heresy of Marcellus. It was an honourable tradition of Eastern Christendom to guard against the recrudescence of such heresy as his, which revived the fallacies of Paul of Samosata and of Sabellius, and seemed in Asia the most formidable of all possible errors. Marcellus had forged it as a weapon in defence of the Nicene faith; and if his doctrine were among the most formidable antagonists of Arianism, it may well have seemed that there was not much to choose between the two. And while Athanasius had never condemned Marcellus, and the West had more than once pronounced him innocent, the general feeling of the East was decisively against him, and deeply suspicious of any appearance of sympathy with him. And further, by one of those complications of personal with theological opposition which were so sadly frequent, Basil was in possession of that very see of Ancyra from which the heretic Marcellus had been expelled. Hilary, who was unconcerned in all this, saw a new hope for the Church in his Asiatic friends, and his own tendencies of thought must have been a welcome surprise to them, accustomed as they were to suspect Sabellianism in the West. The prospect, indeed, was at first sight a fair one. The faith, it seemed, might be upheld by imperial support, now that it had advocates who were not prejudiced in the Emperor’s eyes as was Athanasius; and Athanasius himself, accredited by the testimony of Asia, might recover his position. Yet Hilary was building on an unsound foundation. The Semiarian party was not united. Hilary may not have suspected, or may, in his zeal for the cause, have concealed from himself the fact, that in the doctrine of the Holy Ghost there lay the seeds of a strife which was soon to divide his allies as widely as Arius was separated from Athanasius. And these allies, as a body, were not worthy supporters of the truth. There were many sincere men among them, but these were mixed with adventurers, who used the conflict as a means of attaining office, with as few scruples as any of the other prelates who hung around the court. But the fatal obstacle to success was that the whole plan depended on the favour of Constantius. For the moment Basil and his friends possessed this, but their adversaries were men of greater dexterity and fewer scruples than they. Valens and Ursacius and their like were doing their utmost to retrieve defeat and enjoy revenge. It is significant that Athanasius, as it seems, had no share in Hilary’s hopes and schemes for drawing East and West together. He had an unrivalled knowledge of the circumstances, and an open mind, willing to see good in the Semiarians; had the plan contained the elements of success it would have received his warm support.
Hilary threw himself heartily into it. He travelled, we know, extensively; so much so, that his letters from Gaul failed to reach him in the year 358. This was a serious matter. We have seen that the exiles from the West had derived great support from their flocks. Hilary’s own weight as a negotiator must have depended upon the general knowledge that he did not stand alone, but represented the public opinion of a great province. For this reason, as well as for his own peace of mind, it must have been a welcome relief to him to learn, when letters came at last, that his friends had not forgotten or deserted him; and he seized the opportunity of reply to send to the bishops of all the Gallic provinces and of Britain the circular letter which we call the De Synodis, translated in this volume. The Introduction to it, here given, makes it unnecessary to describe its contents. It may suffice to say that it is an able and well-written attempt to explain the Eastern position to Western theologians. He shews that the Eastern creeds, which had been composed since the Nicene, were susceptible of an orthodox meaning, and felicitously brings out their merits by contrast with the unmitigated heresy of the second creed of Sirmium, which he cites at full length. It must be admitted that there is a certain amount of special pleading; that his eyes are resolutely shut to any other aspect of the documents than that which he is commending to the attention of his readers in Gaul. And he is as boldly original in his xixrendering of history as of doctrine. He actually describes the Council of the Dedication, which confirmed the deposition of Athanasius and propounded a compromising creed, definitely intended to displace the Nicene, as an ‘assembly of the saints5656 Syn. 32..’ The West, we know, cared little for Eastern disputes and formularies. There can have been no great risk that Hilary’s praise should revolt the minds of his friends, and as little hope that it would excite any enthusiasm among them. This description, and a good deal else in the De Synodis, was obviously meant to be read in the land where it was written. When all possible allowance is made for his sympathy with the best men among the Asiatics, and for the hopefulness with which he might naturally regard his allies, it is still impossible to think that he was quite sincere in asserting that their object in compiling ambiguous creeds was the suppression of Sabellianism and not the rejection of the homoousion. Yet it was natural enough that he should write as he did, for the prospect must have seemed most attractive. If this open letter could convince the Eastern bishops that they were regarded in the West not with suspicion, as teachers of the inferiority of Christ, but with admiration, as steadfast upholders of His reality, a great step was made towards union. And if Hilary could persuade his brethren in Gaul that the imperfect terms in which the East was accustomed to express its faith in Christ were compatible with sound belief, an approach could be made from that side also. And in justice to Hilary we must bear in mind that he does not fall into the error of Liberius. It was a serious fault for a Western bishop to abandon words which were, for him and for his Church, the recognised expression of the truth; it was a very different matter to argue that inadequate terms, in the mouth of those who were unhappily pledged to the use of them, might contain the saving Faith. This latter is the argument which Hilary uses. He urges the East to advance to the definiteness of the Nicene confession; he urges the West to welcome the first signs of such an advance, and meantime to recognise the truth that was half-concealed in their ambiguous documents. The attempt was a bold one, and met, as was inevitable, with severe criticism from the side of uncompromising orthodoxy, which we may for the moment leave unnoticed. What Athanasius thought of the treatise we do not know; it would be unsafe to conjecture that his own work, which bears the same title and was written in the following year, when the futility of the hope which had buoyed Hilary up had been demonstrated, was a silent criticism upon the De Synodisof the other. It is, at least, a success in itself, and was a step towards the ultimate victory of truth; we cannot say as much of Hilary’s effort, admirable though its intention was, and though it must have contributed something to the softening of asperities. But Alexandria and Gaul were distant, and while the one excited repugnance in the Emperor’s mind, the other had little influence with him. The decision seemed to lie in the hands of Basil of Ancyra and his colleagues. The men who had the ear of Constantius, and had lately induced him to banish the Arians, must in consistency use their influence for the restoration of exiles who were suffering for their opposition to Arianism; and this influence, if only the West would heartily join with them, would be strong enough to secure even the restoration of Athanasius. Such thoughts were certainly present in the mind of Hilary when he painted so bright a picture of Eastern Councils, and represented Constantius as an innocent believer, once misguided but now returned to the Faith5757 Ib. 78.. From the Semiarian leaders, controlling the policy of Constantius, he expected peace for the Church, restoration of the exiles, the suppression of Arianism. And if to some extent he deceived himself, and was willing to believe and to persuade others that men’s faith and purpose differed from what in fact it was, we must remember that it was a time of passionate earnestness, when cool judgment concerning friend or foe was almost impossible for one who was involved in that great conflict concerning the Divinity of Christ.
xxBut the times were not ripe for an understanding between East and West, and the Asiatics in whom Hilary had put his trust were not, and did not deserve to be, the restorers of the Church. Their victory had been complete, but the Emperor was inconstant and their adversaries were men of talent, who had once guided his counsels and knew how to recover their position. The policy of Constantius was, as we know, one of compromise, and it might seem to him that the prevailing confusion would cease if only a sufficiently comprehensive formula could be devised and accepted. ‘Specious charity and colourless indefiniteness5858 Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism, p. 163.’ was the policy of the new party, formed by Valens and Arians of every shade, which won the favour of Constantius within a year of the Semiarian victory. They had been mortified, had been forced to sign a confession which they disbelieved, many of them had suffered a momentary exile. Now they were to have their revenge; not only were the terms of communion to be so lax that extreme Arianism should be at home within the Church, but, as in a modern change of ministry, the Semiarians were to yield their sees to their opponents. To attain these ends a Council was necessary. The general history of the Homoean intrigues, of their division of the forces opposed to them by the assembling of a Western Council at Rimini, of an Eastern at Seleucia, and their apparent triumph, gained by shameless falsehood, in the former, would be out of place. Hilary and his Asiatic friends were concerned only with the Council which met at Seleucia in September, 359. The Emperor, who hoped for a final settlement, desired that the Council should be as large as possible, and the governors of provinces exerted themselves to collect bishops, and to forward them to Seleucia, as was usual, at the public expense. Among the rest, Hilary, who was, we must remember, a bishop with a diocese of his own, and of unimpugned orthodoxy, exiled ostensibly for a political offence, received orders to attend at the cost of the State5959 Sulp. Sev. Chron. ii. 42.. In the Council, which numbered some 160 bishops, his Semiarian friends were in a majority of three to one; the uncompromising Nicenes of Egypt and the uncompromising Arians, taken together, did not number more than a quarter of the whole. Hilary was welcomed heartily and, as it would seem, unanimously; but he had to disclaim, on behalf of the Church in Gaul, the Sabellianism of which it was suspected, and with some reason after the Western welcome of Marcellus. He stated his faith to the satisfaction of the Council in accordance with the Nicene confession6060 Sulp. Sev. ii. 42, iuxta ea, quæ Nicææ erant a patribus conscripta.. We cannot doubt that he made use of its very words, for Hilary was not the man to retreat from the position he held, and the terms of his alliance with the school of Basil of Ancyra required no such renunciation. The proceedings of the Council, in which Hilary took no public part, may be omitted. The Semiarians, strong in numbers and, as they still thought, in the Emperor’s favour, swept everything before them. They adopted the ambiguous creed of the Council of the Dedication,—that Council which Hilary had lately called an ‘assembly of the Saints’—for the Nicenes were a powerless minority; and they repeated their sentence of excommunication upon the Arians, who were still fewer in number. They even ventured to consecrate a successor to Eudoxius, one of the most extreme, for the great Church of Antioch. Then the Council elected a commission of ten of the leaders of the majority to present to the Emperor a report of its proceedings, and dispersed. In spite of some ominous signs of obstinacy on the part of the Arians, and of favour towards them shown by the government officials, they seemed to have succeeded in establishing still more firmly the results attained at Ancyra two years before, and to have struck another and, as they might hope, a more effectual blow at the heretics.
But when the deputation, with whom Hilary travelled, reached Constantinople, they found that the position was entirely different from their expectation. The intriguing party, whose aim was to punish and displace the Semiarians, had contrived a double treason. They misrepresented the Western Council to the Emperor as in agreement with themselves; xxiand they sacrificed their more honest colleagues in Arianism. They hated those who, like Basil of Ancyra, maintained the homoiousion, the doctrine that the Son is of like nature with the Father; the Emperor sincerely rejected the logical Arianism which said that He is of unlike nature. They abandoned their friends in order to induce Constantius to sacrifice his old Semiarian advisers; and proposed with success their new Homoean formula, that the Son is ‘like the Father in all things, as Scripture says.’ His nature is not mentioned; the last words were a concession to the scruples of the Emperor. We shall see presently that this rupture with the consistent Arians is a matter of some importance for the dating of Hilary’s De Trinitate; for the present we must follow the fortunes of himself and his allies. He had journeyed with them to Constantinople. This was, apparently, a breach of the order given him to confine himself to the diocese of Asia; but he had already been commanded to go to Seleucia, which lay beyond those limits, and his journey to Constantinople may have been regarded as a legitimate sequel to his former journey. In any case he was not molested, and was allowed to appear, with the deputation from Seleucia, at the Court of Constantius. For the last two months of the year 359 the disputes concerning the Faith still continued. But the Emperor was firm in his determination to bring about a compromise which should embrace every one who was not an extreme and conscientious Arian, and the Homoean leaders supported him ably and unscrupulously. They falsified the sense of the Council of Rimini and denied their own Arianism, and Constantius backed them up by threats against the Seleucian deputation. Hilary, of course, had no official position, and could speak only for himself. The Western Church seemed to have decided against its own faith, and the decision of the East, represented by the ten delegates, was not yet declared, though it must have been probable that they would succumb to the pressure exercised upon them, and desert their own convictions and those of the Council whose commission they held. In these circumstances Hilary had the courage, which we cannot easily overestimate, to make a personal appeal to Constantius6161 Sulpicius Severus, Chron. ii. 45, says that he addressed at this time three petitions to the Emperor. This is, of course, not impossible; but it is more likely that he had in his mind the two appeals, that before the exile and the present one, and the Invective.. It is evident that as yet he is hopeful, or at least that he thinks it worth while to make an attempt. He writes with the same customary humility which we found in his former address to the Emperor. Constantius is ‘most pious,’ ‘good and religious,’ ‘most gracious,’ and so forth. The sincerity of the appeal is manifest; Hilary still believes, or is trying to believe, that the Emperor, who had so lately been on the side of Basil of Ancyra and his friends, and had at their instigation humiliated and exiled their opponents, has not transferred his favour once more to the party of Valens. The address is written with great dignity of style and of matter. Hilary begins by declaring that the importance of his theme is such that it enforces attention, however insignificant the speaker may be; yet (§ 2) his position entitles him to speak. He is a bishop, in communion with all the churches and bishops of Gaul, and to that very day distributing the Eucharist by the hands of his presbyters to his own Church. He is in exile, it is true, but he is guiltless; falsely accused by designing men who had gained the Emperor’s ear. He appeals to Julian’s knowledge of his innocence; indeed, the malice of his opponents had inflicted less of suffering upon himself than of discredit upon the administration of Julian, under which he had been condemned. The Emperor’s rescript sentencing Hilary to exile was public; it was notorious that the charges upon which the sentence was based were false. Saturninus, the active promoter, if not the instigator, of the attack, was now in Constantinople. Hilary confidently promises to demonstrate that the proceedings were a deception of Constantius, and an insult to Julian; if he fails, he will no longer petition to be allowed to return to the exercise of his office, xxiibut will retire to pass the rest of his days as a layman in repentance. To this end he asks to be confronted with Saturninus (§ 3), or rather takes for granted that Constantius will do as he wishes. He leaves the Emperor to determine all the conditions of the debate, in which, as he repeats, he will wring from Saturninus the confession of his falsehood. Meanwhile he promises to be silent upon the subject till the appointed time. Next, he turns to the great subject of the day. The world’s danger, the guilt of silence, the judgment of God, fill him with fear; he is constrained to speak when his own salvation and that of the Emperor and of mankind is at stake, and encouraged by the consciousness of multitudes who sympathise with him. He bids the Emperor (§ 4) call back to his mind the Faith which (so he says) Constantius is longing in vain to hear from his bishops. Those whose duty is to proclaim the Faith of God are employed, instead, in composing faiths of their own, and so they revolve in an endless circle of error and of strife. The sense of human infirmity ought to have made them content to hold the Faith in the same form of words in which they had received it. At their baptism they had professed and sworn their faith, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; doubt or change are equally unlawful. Yet men were using the sacred words while they dishonestly assigned to them another meaning, or even were daring to depart from them. Thus to some the three sacred Names were empty terms. Hence innovations in the statement of the Faith; the search for novelties took the place of loyalty to ancient truth, and the creed of the year displaced the creed of the Gospels. Every one framed his confession according to his own desire or his own character; while creeds were multiplying, the one Faith was perishing. Since the Council of Nicæa (§ 5) there had been no end to this writing of creeds. So busily were men wrangling over words, seeking novelties, debating knotty points, forming factions and pursuing ambitions, refusing to agree and hurling anathemas at one another, that almost all had drifted away from Christ. The confusion was such that none could either teach or learn in safety. Within the last year no less than four contradictory creeds had been promulgated. There was no single point of the Faith which they or their fathers had held upon which violent hands had not been laid. And the pitiful creed which for the moment held the field was that the Son is ‘like the Father’; whether this likeness were perfect or imperfect was left in obscurity. The result of constant change and ceaseless dispute was self-contradiction and mutual destruction. This search for a faith (§ 6) involved the assumption that the true Faith was not ready to the believer’s hand. They would have it in writing, as though the heart were not its place. Baptism implied the Faith and was useless without its acceptance; to teach a new Christ after Baptism, or to alter the Faith then declared, was sin against the Holy Ghost. The chief cause of the continuance of the present blasphemy was the love of applause; men invented grandiloquent paraphrases in place of the Apostles’ Creed, to delude the vulgar, to conceal their aberrations, to effect a compromise with other forms of error. They would do anything rather than confess that they had been wrong. When the storm arises (§ 7) the mariner returns to the harbour he had left; the spendthrift youth, with ruin in prospect, to the sober habits of his father’s home. So Christians, with shipwreck of the Faith in sight and the heavenly patrimony almost lost, must return to the safety which lies in the primitive, Apostolic Baptismal Creed. They must not condemn as presumptuous or profane the Nicene confession, but eschew it as giving occasion to attacks upon the Faith and to denials of the truth on the ground of novelty. There is danger lest innovation creep in, excused as improvement of this creed; and emendation is an endless process, which leads the emenders to condemnation of each other. Hilary now (§8) professes his sincere admiration of Constantius’ devout purpose and earnestness in seeking the truth, which he who denies is antichrist, and he who feigns is anathema. He entreats the Emperor to allow him to expound the Faith, in his own presence, before the Council which was now debating the subject at Constantinople. xxiiiHis exposition shall be Scriptural; he will use the words of Christ, Whose exile and Whose bishop he is. The Emperor seeks the Faith; let him hear it not from modern volumes, but from the books of God. Even in the West it may be taught, whence shall come some that shall sit at meat in the kingdom of God. This is a matter not of philosophy, but of the teaching of the Gospel. He asks audience rather for the Emperor’s sake and for God’s Churches than for himself. He is sure of the faith that is in him; it is God’s, and he will never change it. But (§ 9) the Emperor must bear in mind that every heretic professes that his own is the Scriptural doctrine. So say Marcellus, Photinus, and the rest. He prays (§ 10) for the Emperor’s best attention; his plea will be for faith and unity and eternal life. He will speak in all reverence for Constantius’ royal position, and for his faith, and what he says shall tend to peace between East and West. Finally (§ 11) he gives, as an outline of the address he proposes to deliver, the series of texts on which he will base his argument. This is what the Holy Spirit has taught him to believe. To this faith he will ever adhere, loyal to the Faith of his fathers, and the creed of his Baptism, and the Gospel as he has learnt it.
In this address, to which we cannot wonder that Constantius made no response, there is much that is remarkable. There is no doubt that Hilary’s exile had been a political measure, and that the Emperor, in this as in the numerous other cases of the same kind, had acted deliberately and with full knowledge of the circumstances in the way that seemed to him most conducive to the interests of permanent peace. Hilary’s assumption that Constantius had been deceived is a legitimate allusion, which no one could misunderstand, to a fact which could not be respectfully stated. That he should have spoken as he did, and indeed that he should have raised the subject at all, is a clear sign of the uncertainty of the times. A timorous appeal for mercy would have been useless; a bold statement of innocence, although, as things turned out, it failed, was an effort worth making to check the Homoean advance. Saturninus, as we saw, was one of the Court party among the bishops, and he was an enemy of Julian, who was soon to permit his deposition. Julian’s knowledge of Hilary can have been but small; his exile began within a month or two of the Cæsar’s arrival in Gaul, and Julian was not responsible for it. For good or for evil, he had little to say in the case. But the suspicions were already aroused which were soon to lead to Julian’s revolt, and Constantius had begun to give the orders which would lessen Julian’s military force, and were, as he supposed, intended to prepare his downfall. To appeal to Julian and to attack Saturninus was to remind Constantius very broadly that great interests were at stake, and that a protector might be found for the creed which he persecuted. And his double mention of the West (§§ 8, 10) as able to teach the truth, and as needing to be reconciled with the East, has a political ring. It suggests that the Western provinces are a united force, with which the Emperor must reckon. The fact that Constantius, though he did not grant the meeting in his own presence with Saturninus, which Hilary had asked for, yet did grant the substance of his prayer, allowing him to return without obstacle to his diocese, seems to shew that the Emperor felt the need for caution and concession in the West.
The theological part of the letter is even more remarkable. Its doctrine is, of course, exactly that of the De Trinitate. The summary of Scripture proofs for the doctrine in § 11, the allusion to unlearned fishermen who have been teachers of the Faith6262 Cf. Trin. ii. 13 ff., and several other passages, are either anticipations or reminiscences of that work. But the interest of the letter lies in its bold proposal to go behind all the modern creeds, of the confusion of which a vivid picture is drawn, and revert to the baptismal formula. Here is a leading combatant on the Catholic side actually proposing to withdraw the Nicene confesxxivsion:—‘Amid these shipwrecks of faith, when our inheritance of the heavenly patrimony is almost squandered, our safety lies in clinging to that first and only Gospel Faith which we confessed and apprehended at our Baptism, and in making no change in that one form which, when we welcome it and listen to it, brings the right faith.6363 Reading habet for habeo, but the text is obscure. I do not mean that we should condemn as a godless and blasphemous writing the work of the Synod of our fathers; yet rash men make use of it as a means of gain saying’ (§ 7). The Nicene Creed6464 It is true that the Nicene Council is not named here, but the allusion is obvious. The Conservatives had actually objected to the novelty of the Creed; and the Arians had, as Hilary goes on to say, used the pretext of novelty to destroy the Gospel. The Council of Nicæa was thirty-five years before, and is very accurately described as a ‘Synod of our fathers.’, Hilary goes on to say, had been the starting-point of an endless chain of innovations and amendments, and thus had done harm instead of good. We have seen that Hilary was not only acting with the Semiarians, but was nearer to them in many ways than he was to Athanasius. The future of his friends was now in doubt; not only was their doctrine in danger, but, after the example they had themselves set, they must have been certain that defeat meant deposition. This was a concession which only a sense of extreme urgency could have induced Hilary to make. Yet even now he avoids the mistake of Liberius. He offers to sign no compromising creed; he only proposes that all modern creeds be consigned to the same oblivion. It was, in effect, the offer of another compromise in lieu of the Homoean; though Hilary makes it perfectly clear what is, in his eyes, the only sense in which this simple and primitive confession can honestly be made, yet assuredly those whose doctrine most widely diverged would have felt able to make it. That the proposal was sincerely meant, and that his words, uncompromising as they are in assertion of the truth, were not intended for a simple defiance of the enemy, is shewn by the list of heretics whom he advances, in § 9, in proof of his contention that all error claims to be based on Scripture. Three of them, Montanus, Manichæus and Marcion, were heretics in the eyes of an Arian as much as of a Catholic; the other three, Marcellus, Photinus and Sabellius, were those with whom the Arians were constantly taunting their adversaries. Hilary avoids, deliberately as we may be sure, the use of any name which could wound his opponents. But bold and eloquent and true as the appeal of Hilary was, it was still less likely that his petition for a hearing in Council should be granted than that he should be allowed to disprove the accusations which had led to his exile. The Homoean leaders had the victory in their hands, and they knew it, if Hilary and his friends were still in the dark. They did not want conciliation, but revenge, and this appeal was foredoomed to failure. The end of the crisis soon came. The Semiarian leaders were deposed, not on the charge of heresy, for that would have been inconsistent with the Homoean position and also with their acquiescence in the Homoean formula, but on some of those complaints concerning conduct which were always forthcoming when they were needed. Among the victims was not only Basil of Ancyra, Hilary’s friend, but also Macedonius of Constantinople, who was in after days to be the chief of the party which denied the true Godhead of the Holy Ghost. He and his friends were probably unconscious at this time of the gulf which divided them from such men as Hilary, who for their part were content, in the interests of unity, with language which understated their belief, or else had not yet a clear sense of their faith upon this point. In any case it was well that the final victory of the true Faith was not won at this time, and with the aid of such allies; we may even regard it as a sign of some short-sightedness on Hilary’s part that he had thrown himself so heartily into their cause. But he, at any rate, was not to suffer. The two Eastern parties, Homoean and Semiarian, which alternately ejected one another from their sees, were very evenly balanced, and though Constantius was now on the side of the former, his friendship was not to be xxvtrusted. The solid orthodoxy of the West was an influence which, as Hilary had hinted, could not be ignored; and even in the East the Nicenes were a power worth conciliating. Hence the Homoeans gave a share of the Semiarian spoils to them6565 Cf. Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism, p. 182.; and it was part of the same policy, and not, as has been quaintly suggested, because they were afraid of his arguments, that they permitted Hilary to return to Gaul. Reasons of state as well as of ecclesiastical interest favoured his restoration.
In the late revolution, though the Faith had suffered, individual Catholics had gained. But the party to which Hilary had attached himself, and from which he had hoped so much was crushed; and his personal advantage did not compensate, in his eyes, for the injury to truth. He has left us a memorial of his feelings in the Invective against Constantius, one of the bitterest documents of a controversy in which all who engaged were too earnest to spare their opponents. It is an admirable piece of rhetoric suffused with passion, not the less spontaneous because its form, according to the canons of taste of that time, is perfect. For we must remember that the education of the day was literary, its aim being to provide the recipient with a prompt and felicitous expression of his thoughts, whatever they might be. The invective was certainly written in the first place as a relief to Hilary’s own feelings; he could not anticipate that Constantius had changed his views for the last time; that he would soon cease to be the master of Gaul, and would be dead within some eighteen months. But the existence of other attacks upon Constantius, composed about this time, makes it probable that there was some secret circulation of such documents; and we can as little accuse the writers of cowardice, when we consider the Emperor’s far-reaching power, as we can attribute to them injustice towards him.
The book begins with an animated summons to resistance:—‘The time for speech is come, the time of silence past. Let us look for Christ’s coming, for Antichrist is already in power. Let the shepherds cry aloud, for the hirelings are fled. Let us lay down our lives for the sheep, for the thieves have entered in and the ravening lion prowls around. With such words on our lips let us go forth to martyrdom, for the angel of Satan has transfigured himself into an angel of light.’ After more Scriptural language of the same kind, Hilary goes on to say (§ 2) that, though he had been fully conscious of the extent of the danger to the Faith, he had been strictly moderate in his conduct. After the exiling of orthodox bishops at Arles and Milan, he and the bishops of Gaul had contented themselves with abstaining from communion with Saturninus, Ursacius and Valens. Other heretical bishops had been allowed a time for repentance. And even after he had been forced to attend the Synod of Béziers, refused a hearing for the charges of heresy which he wished to bring, and finally exiled, he had never, in word or writing, uttered any denunciation against his opponents, the Synagogue of Satan, who falsely claimed to be the Church of Christ. He had not faltered in his own belief, but had welcomed every suggestion that held out a hope of unity; and in that hope he had even refrained from blaming those who associated or worshipped with the excommunicate. Setting all personal considerations on one side, he had laboured for a restoration of the Church through a general repentance. His reserve and consistency (§ 3) is evidence that what he is about to say is not due to personal irritation. He speaks in the name of Christ, and his prolonged silence makes it his duty to speak plainly. It had been happy for him had he lived in the days of Nero or Decius (§ 4). The Holy Spirit would have fired him to endure as did the martyrs of Scripture; torments and death would have been welcome. It would have been a fair fight with an open enemy. But now (§ 5) Constantius was Antichrist, and waged his warfare by deceit and flattery. It was scourging then, pampering now; no longer freedom in prison, but slavery at court, and gold as deadly as the sword had xxvibeen; martyrs no longer burnt at the stake, but a secret lighting of the fires of hell. All that seems good in Constantius, his confession of Christ, his efforts for unity, his severity to heretics, his reverence for bishops, his building of churches, is perverted to evil ends. He professes loyalty to Christ, but his constant aim is to prevent Christ from being honoured equally with the Father. Hence (§ 6) it is a clear duty to speak out, as the Baptist to Herod and the Maccabees to Antiochus. Constantius is addressed (§ 7) in the words in which Hilary would have addressed Nero or Decius or Maximian had he been arraigned before them, as the enemy of God and His Church, a persecutor and a tyrant. But he has a peculiar infamy, worse than theirs, for it is as a pretended Christian that he opposes Christ, imprisons bishops, overawes the Church by military force, threatens and starves one council (at Rimini) into submission, and frustrates the purpose of another (Seleucia) by sowing dissension. To the pagan Emperors the Church owed a great debt (§ 8); the Martyrs with whom they had enriched her were still working daily wonders, healing the sick, casting out evil spirits, suspending the law of gravitation6666 ‘Bodies lifted up without support, women hanging by the feet without their garments falling about their face.’ The other references which the Benedictine editor gives for this curious statement are evidently borrowed from this of Hilary. From the time of the first Apologists exorcism is, of course, constantly appealed to as an evidence of the truth of Christianity, but usually, in somewhat perfunctory language, and without the assertion that the writer has himself seen what he records. Hilary himself does not profess to be an eye-witness.. But Constantius’ guilt has no mitigation. A nominal Christian, he has brought unmixed evil upon the Church. The victims of his perversion cannot even plead bodily suffering as an excuse for their lapse. The devil is his father, from whom he has learnt his skill in misleading. He says to Christ, Lord, Lord, but shall not enter the kingdom of heaven (§ 9), for he denies the Son, and therefore the fatherhood of God. The old persecutors were enemies of Christ only; Constantius insults the Father also, by making Him lie. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing (§ 10). He loads the Church with the gold of the state and the spoil of pagan temples; it is the kiss with which Judas betrayed his Master. The clergy receive immunities and remissions of taxation: it is to tempt them to deny Christ. He will only relate such acts of Constantius’ tyranny as affect the Church (§ 11). He will not press, for he does not know the offence alleged, his conduct in branding bishops on the forehead, as convicts, and setting them to labour in the mines. But he recounts his long course of oppression and faction at Alexandria; a warfare longer than that which he had waged against Persia6767 This is a telling point. Constantius had been notoriously unsuccessful in his Persian Wars.. Elsewhere, in the East, he had spread terror and strife, always to prevent Christ being preached. Then he had turned to the West. The excellent Paulinus had been driven from Treves, and cruelly treated, banished from all Christian society6868 The text is corrupt, but it is not probable that Hilary means that Paulinus was first relegated to Phrygia and then to some pagan frontier district, if such there was. It is quite in Hilary’s present vein to assume that because the Montanists were usually called after the province of their origin, in which they were still numerous, therefore all Phrygians were heretics and outside the pale of Christendom. If hordeo be read for horreo the passage is improved. Paulinus had either to be satisfied with rations of barley bread, the food of slaves, or else to beg from the heretics. Such treatment is very improbable, when we remember Hilary’s own comfort in exile. But passions were excited, and men believed the worst of their opponents. We may compare the falsehoods in Walker’s Sufferings of the Clergy, and in Neal’s Puritans, which were eagerly believed in and after our own Civil War., and forced to consort with Montanist heretics. Again, at Milan, the soldiers had brutally forced their way through the orthodox crowds and torn bishops from the altar; a crime like that of the Jews who slew Zacharias in the Temple. He had robbed Rome also of her bishop, whose restoration was as disgraceful to the Emperor as his banishment. At Toulouse the clergy had been shamefully maltreated, and gross irreverence committed in the Church. These are the deeds of Antichrist. Hitherto, Hilary has spoken of matters of public notoriety, though not of his own observation. Now (§ 12) he comes to the Synod of Seleucia, at which he had been present. He found there as many blasphemers as Constantius chose. Only the Egyptians, with the exception of George, the intruder into the See of Athanasius, were avowedly Homoousian. xxviiYet of the one hundred and five bishops who professed the Homoeousian Creed, he found ‘some piety in the words of some.’ But the Anomœans were rank blasphemers; he gives, in § 13, words from a sermon by their leader, Eudoxius of Antioch, which were quoted by the opposition, and received with the abhorrence they deserved. This party found (§ 14) that no toleration was to be expected for such doctrines, and so forged the Homoean creed, which condemned equally the homoousion, the homoiousion and the anomoion. Their insincerity in thus rejecting their own belief was manifest to the Council, and one of them, who canvassed Hilary’s support, avowed blank Arianism in the conversation. The large Homoeousian majority (§ 15) deposed the authors of the Homoean confession, who flew for aid to Constantius, who received them with honour and allowed them to air their heresy. The tables were turned; the minority, aided by the Emperor’s threats of exile, drove the majority, in the persons of their ten delegates, to conform to the new creed. The people were coerced by the prefect, the bishops threatened within the palace walls; the chief cities of the East were provided with heretical Bishops. It was nothing less than making a present to the devil of the whole world for which Christ died. Constantius professed (§ 16) that his aim was to abolish unscriptural words. But what right had he to give orders to bishops or dictate the language of their sermons? A new disease needed new remedies; warfare was inevitable when fresh enemies arose. And, after all, the Homoean formula, ‘like the Father,’ was itself unscriptural. Scripture is adduced (§ 17) by Hilary to prove that the Son is not merely like, but equal to, the Father; and (§ 18) one in nature with Him, having (§ 19) the form and the glory of God. This ‘likeness’ is a trap (§ 20); chaff strewn on water, straw covering a pit, a hook hidden in the bait. The Catholic sense is the only true sense in which the word can be used, as is shewn more fully, by arguments to be found in the De Trinitate, in §§ 21, 22. And now he asks Constantius (§ 23) the plain question, what his creed is. He has made a hasty progress, by a steep descent, to the nethermost pit of blasphemy. He began with the Faith, which deserved the name, of Nicæa; he changed it at Antioch. But he was a clumsy builder; the structure he raised was always falling, and had to be constantly renewed; creed after creed had been framed, the safeguards and anathemas of which would have been needless had he remained steadfast to the Nicene. Hilary does not lament the creeds which Constantius had abandoned (§ 24); they might be harmless in themselves, but they represented no real belief. Yet why should he reject his own creeds? There was no such reason for his discontent with them as there had been, in his heresy, for his rejection of the Nicene. This ceaseless variety arose from want of faith; ‘one Faith, one Baptism,’ is the mark of truth. The result had been to stultify the bishops. They had been driven to condemn in succession the accurate homoousion and the harmless homoiousion, and even the word ousia, or substance. These were the pranks of a mere buffoon, amusing himself at the expense of the Church, and compelling the bishops, like dogs returning to their vomit, to accept what they had rejected. So many had been the contradictory creeds that every one was now, or had been in the past, a heretic confessed. And this result had only been attained (§ 26) by violence, as for instance in the cases of the Eastern and African bishops. The latter had committed to writing their sentence upon Ursacius and Valens; the Emperor had seized the document. It might go to the flames, as would Constantius himself, but the sentence was registered with God. Other men (§ 27) had waged war with the living, but Constantius extended his hostility to the dead; he contradicted the teaching of the saints, and his bishops rejected their predecessors, to whom they owed their orders, by denying their doctrine. The three hundred and eighteen at Nicæa were anathema to him, and his own father who had presided there. Yet though he might scorn the past, he could not control the future. The truth defined at Nicæa had been solemnly committed to writing and remained, however Constantius might condemn xxviiiit. ‘Give ear,’ Hilary concludes, ‘to the holy meaning of the words, to the unalterable determination of the Church, to the faith which thy father avowed, to the sure hope in which man must put his trust, the universal conviction of the doom of heresy; and learn therefrom that thou art the foe of God’s religion, the enemy of the tombs of the saints6969 Hilary had previously (§ 27) asserted that ‘the Apostle has taught us to communicate with the tombs of the saints.’ This is an allusion to Rom. xii. 13, with the strange reading ‘tombs’ for ‘necessities’ (μνείαις for χρείαις), which has, in fact, considerable authority in the mss. of the New Testament and in the Latin Christian writers. How far this reading may have been the cause, how far the effect, of the custom of celebrating the Eucharist at the tombs of Martyrs, it is impossible to say. The custom was by this time more than a century old, and one of its purposes was to maintain the sense of unity with the saints of the past. Constantius, by denying their doctrine, had made himself their enemy., the rebellious inheritor of thy father’s piety.’
Here, again, there is much of interest. Hilary’s painful feeling of isolation is manifest. He had withdrawn from communion with Saturninus and the few Arians of Gaul, but has to confess that his own friends were not equally uncompromising. The Gallic bishops, with their enormous dioceses, had probably few occasions for meeting, and prudent men could easily avoid a conflict which the Arians, a feeble minority, would certainly not provoke. The bishops had been courteous, or more than courteous; and Hilary dared not protest. His whole importance as a negotiator in the East depended on the belief that he was the representative of a harmonious body of opinion. To advertise this departure from his policy of warfare would have been fatal to his influence. And if weakness, as he must have judged it, was leading his brethren at home into a recognition of Arians, Constantius and his Homoean counsellors had ingeniously contrived a still more serious break in the orthodox line of battle. There was reason in his bitter complaint of the Emperor’s generosity. He was lavish with his money, and it was well worth a bishop’s while to be his friend. And of this expenditure Nicenes were enjoying their share, and that without having to surrender their personal belief, for all that was required was that they should not be inquisitive as to their neighbours’ heresies. But Nicene bishops, of an accommodating character, were not only holding their own; they were enjoying a share of the spoils of the routed Semiarians. It was almost a stroke of genius thus to shatter Hilary’s alliance; for it was certainly not by chance that among the sees to which Nicenes, in full and formal communion with him, were preferred, was Ancyra itself, from which his chosen friend Basil had been ejected. Disgusted though Hilary must have been with such subservience, and saddened by the downfall of his friends, it is clear that the Emperor’s policy had some success, even with him. His former hopes being dashed to the ground, he now turns, with an interest he had never before shewn, to the Nicene Creed as a bulwark of the Faith. And we can see the same feeling at work in his very cold recognition that there was ‘some piety in the words of some’ among his friends at Seleucia. It would be unjust to think of Hilary as a timeserver, but we must admit that there is something almost too businesslike in this dismission from his mind of former hopes and friendships. He looked always to a practical result in the establishment of truth, and a judgment so sound as his could not fail to see that the Asiatic negotiations were a closed chapter in his life. And his mind must have been full of the thought that he was returning to the West, which had its own interests and its own prejudices, and was impartially suspicious of all Eastern theologians; whose ‘selfish coldness7070 Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism, p. 244.’ towards the East was, indeed, ten years later still a barrier against unity. If Hilary was to be, as he purposed, a power in the West, he must promptly resume the Western tone; and he will have succumbed to very natural infirmity if, in his disappointment, he was disposed to couple together his allies who had failed with the Emperor who had caused their failure.
The historical statements of the Invective, as has been said, cannot always be verified. The account of the Synod of Seleucia is, however, unjust to Constantius. It was the free xxixexpression of the belief of Asia, and if heretics were present by command of the Emperor, an overwhelming majority, more or less orthodox, were present by the same command. But the character and policy of Constantius are delineated fairly enough. The results, disastrous both to conscience and to peace, are not too darkly drawn, and no sarcasm could be too severe for the absurd as well as degrading position to which he had reduced the Church. But the invective is interesting not only for its contents but as an illustration of its writer’s character. Strong language meant less in Latin than in English, but the passionate earnestness of these pages cannot be doubted. They are not more violent than the attacks of Athanasius upon Constantius, nor less violent than those of Lucifer; if the last author is usually regarded as pre-eminent in abuse, he deserves his reputation not because of the vigour of his denunciation, but because his pages contain nothing but railing. The change is sudden, no doubt, from respect for Constantius and hopefulness as to his conduct, but the provocation, we must remember, had been extreme. If the faith of the Fathers was intense and, in the best sense, childlike, there is something childlike also in their gusts of passion, their uncontrolled emotion in victory or defeat, the personal element which is constantly present in their controversies. Though, henceforth, ecclesiastical policy was to be but a secondary interest with Hilary, and diplomacy was to give place to a more successful attempt to influence thought, yet we can see in another sphere the same spirit of conflict; for it is evident that his labours against heresy, beside the more serious satisfaction of knowing that he was on the side of truth, are lightened by the logician’s pleasure in exposing fallacy.
The deposition of the Semiarian leaders took place very early in the year 360, and Hilary’s dismissal homewards, one of the same series of measures, must soon have followed. If he had formed the plan of his invective before he left Constantinople, it is not probable that he wrote it there. It was more probably the employment of his long homeward journey. His natural route would be by the great Egnatian Way, which led through Thessalonica to Durazzo, thence by sea to Brindisi, and so to Rome and the North. It is true that the historians, or rather Rufinus, from whom the rest appear to have borrowed all their knowledge, say that Illyricum was one sphere of his labours for the restoration of the Faith. But a journey by land through Illyricum, the country of Valens and Ursacius and thoroughly indoctrinated with Arianism, would not only have been dangerous but useless. For Hilary’s purpose was to confirm the faithful among the bishops and to win back to orthodoxy those who had been terrorised or deceived into error, and thus to cement a new confederacy against the Homoeans; not to make a vain assault upon what was, for the present, an impregnable position. And though the Western portion of the Via Egnatia did not pass through the existing political division called Illyricum, it did lie within the region called in history and literature by that name. Again, the evidence that Hilary passed through Rome is not convincing; but since it was his best road, and he would find there the most important person among those who had wavered in their allegiance to truth, we may safely accept it. He made it his business, we are told7171 Rufinus, Hist. Eccl. i. 30, 31, and, dependent on him, Socrates iii. 10 and Sozomen v. 13., to exhort the Churches through which he passed to abjure heresy and return to the true faith. But we know nothing of the places through which he passed before reaching Rome, the see of Liberius, with whom it was most desirable for him to be on friendly terms. Liberius was not so black as he has sometimes been painted, but he was not a heroic figure. His position was exactly that of many other bishops in the Western lands. They had not denied their own faith, but at one time or another, in most cases at Rimini, they had admitted that there was room in the same communion for Arian bishops and for themselves. In the case of Liberius the circumstances are involved in some obscurity, but it is clear that he had, in order to obtain remission of his exile, taken a position xxxwhich was practically that of the old Council of the Dedication7272 Cf. Dr. Bright, Waymarks, p. 217. n.. Hilary, we remember, had called that Council a ‘Synod of the Saints,’ when speaking of it from the Eastern point of view. But he had never stooped to such a minimising of the Faith as its words, construed at the best, involved. Easterns, in their peculiar difficulties, he was hopeful enough to believe, had framed its terms in a legitimate sense; he could accept it from them, but could not use it as the expression of his own belief. So to do would have been a retrograde step; and this step Liberius had taken, to the scandal of the Church. Yet he, and all whose position in any way resembled his—all, indeed, except some few incorrigible ringleaders—were in the Church; their deflection was, in Hilary’s words, an ‘inward evil.’ And Hilary was no Lucifer; his desire was to unite all who could be united in defence of the truth. This was the plan dictated by policy as well as by charity, and in the case of Liberius, if, as is probable, they met, it was certainly rewarded with success. Indeed, according to Rufinus, Hilary was successful at every stage of his journey. Somewhere on his course he fell in with Eusebius of Vercelli, who had been exiled at the Council of Milan, had passed his time in the region to the East of that in which Hilary had been interned, and was now profiting by the same Homoean amnesty to return to his diocese. He also had been using the opportunities of travel for the promotion of the Faith. He had come from Antioch, and therefore had probably landed at or near Naples. He was now travelling northwards, exhorting as he went. His encounter with Hilary stimulated him to still greater efforts; but Rufinus tells us7373 Hist. Eccl. i. 30, 31. that he was the less successful of the two, for Hilary, ‘a man by nature mild and winning, and also learned and singularly apt at persuasion, applied himself to the task with a greater diligence and skill.’ They do not appear to have travelled in company; the cities to be visited were too numerous and their own time, eager as they must have been to reach their homes, too short. But their journey seems to have been a triumphal progress; the bishops were induced to renounce their compromise with error, and the people inflamed against heresy, so that, in the words of Rufinus7474 Op. cit. i. 31. The recantation of Liberius and of the Italian bishops may be read in Hilary’s 12th Fragment., ‘these two men, glorious luminaries as it were of the universe, flooded Illyricum and Italy and the Gallic provinces with their splendour, so that even from hidden nooks and corners all darkness of heresy was banished.’
In the passage just quoted Rufinus directly connects the publication of Hilary’s masterpiece, usually called the De Trinitate, with this work of reconciliation. After speaking of his success in it, he proceeds, ‘Moreover he published his books Concerning the Faith, composed in a lofty style, wherein he displayed the guile of the heretics and the deceptions practiced upon our friends, together with the credulous and misplaced sincerity of the latter, with such skill that his ample instructions amended the errors not only of those whom he encountered, but also of those whom distance hindered him from meeting face to face.’ Some of the twelve books of which the work is composed had certainly been published during his exile, and it is possible that certain portions may date from his later residence in Gaul. But a study of the work itself leads to the conclusion that Rufinus was right in the main in placing it at this stage of Hilary’s life; this was certainly the earliest date at which it can have been widely influential.
The title which Hilary gave to his work as a whole was certainly De Fide, Concerning the Faith, the name by which, as we saw, Rufinus describes it. It is probable that its controversial purpose was indicated by the addition of contra Arianos; but it is certain that its present title, De Trinitate, was not given to it by Hilary. The word Trinitas is of extraordinarily rare occurrence in his writings; the only instances seem to be in Trin. i. 22, 36, where he is giving a very condensed summary of the contents of his work. In the actual course of his argument the word is scrupulously avoided, as it is in all his other writings. In xxxithis respect he resembles Athanasius, who will usually name the Three Persons rather than employ this convenient and even then familiar term. There may have been some undesirable connotation in it which he desired to avoid, though this is hardly probable; it is more likely that both Athanasius and Hilary, conscious that the use of technical terms of theology was in their times a playing with edged tools, deliberately avoided a word which was unnecessary, though it might be useful. And in Hilary’s case there is the additional reason that to his mind the antithesis of truth and falsehood was One God or Two Gods7575 E.g. Trin. i. 17.; that to him, more than to any other Western theologian, the developed and clearly expressed thought of Three coequal Persons was strange. Since, then, the word and the thought were rarely present in his mind, we cannot accept as the title of his work what is, after all, only a mediæval description.
The composite character of the treatise, which must still for convenience be called the De Trinitate, is manifest. The beginnings of several of its books, which contain far more preliminary, and often rhetorical, matter than is necessary to link them on to their predecessors, point to a separate publication of each; a course which was, indeed, necessary under the literary conditions of the time. This piecemeal publication is further proved by the elaborate summaries of the contents of previous books which are given as, e.g., at the beginning of Trin. x.; and by the frequent repetition of earlier arguments at a later stage, which shews that the writer could not trust to the reader’s possession of the whole. Though no such attention has been devoted to the growth of this work as Noeldechen has paid to that of the treatises of Tertullian, yet some account of the process can be given. For although Hilary himself, in arranging the complete treatise, has done much to make it run smoothly and consecutively, and though the scribes who have copied it have probably made it appear still more homogeneous, yet some clues to its construction are left. The first is his description of the first book as the second (v. 3). This implies that the fourth is the first; and when we examine the fourth we find that, if we leave out of consideration a little preliminary matter, it is the beginning of a refutation of Arianism. It states the Arian case, explains the necessity of the term homoousios, gives a list of the texts on which the Arians relied, and sets out at length one of their statements of doctrine, the Epistle of Arius to Alexander, which it proceeds to demolish, in the remainder of the fourth book and in the fifth, by arguments from particular passages and from the general sense of the Old Testament. In the sixth book, for the reason already given, the Arian Creed is repeated, after a vivid account of the evils of the time, and the refutation continued by arguments from the New Testament. In § 2 of this book there is further evidence of the composite character of the treatise. Hilary says that though in the first book he has already set out the Arian manifesto, yet he thinks good, as he is still dealing with it, to repeat it in this sixth. Hilary seems to have overlooked the discrepancy, which some officious scribe has half corrected7676 Similarly in iv. 2 he alludes to the first book, meaning that which we call first, though, as we saw, in v. 3 he speaks of our fifth as his second.. The seventh book, he says at the beginning, is the climax of the whole work. If we take the De Trinitate as a whole, this is a meaningless flourish; but if we look on to the eighth book, and find an elaborate introduction followed by a line of argument different from that of the four preceding books, we must be inclined to think that the seventh is the climax and termination of what has been an independent work, consisting of four books. And if we turn to the end of the seventh, and note that it alone of all the twelve has nothing that can be called a peroration, but ends in an absolutely bald and businesslike manner, we are almost forced to conclude that this is because the peroration which it once had, as the climax of the work, was unsuitable for its new position and has been wholly removed. Had Hilary written this book as one of the series of twelve, he would certainly, according to all rules of literary xxxiipropriety, have given it a formal termination. In these four books then, the fourth to the seventh, we may see the nucleus of the De Trinitate; not necessarily the part first written, for he says (iv. 1)7777 i.e. in the passage introduced as a connecting link with the books which now precede it, when the whole work was put into its present shape. that some parts, at any rate, of the three first books are of earlier date, but that around which the whole has been arranged. It has a complete unity of its own, following step by step the Arian Creed, of which we shall presently speak. It is purely controversial, and quite possibly the title Contra Arianos, for which there is some evidence, really belongs to this smaller work, though it clung, not unnaturally, to the whole for which Hilary devised the more appropriate De Fide. Concerning the date of these four books, we can only say that they must have been composed during his exile. For though he does not mention his exile, yet he is already a bishop (vi. 2), and knows about the homoousion (iv. 4). We have seen already that his acquaintance with the Nicene Creed began only just before his exile; he must, therefore, have written them during his enforced leisure in Asia.
In the beginning of the fourth book Hilary refers back to the proof furnished in the previous books, written some time ago, of the Scriptural character of his faith and of the unscriptural nature of all the heresies. Setting aside the first book, which does not correspond to this description, we find what he describes in the second and third. These form a short connected treatise, complete in itself. It is much more academic than that of which we have already spoken; it deals briefly with all the current heresies (ii. 4 ff.), but shews no sign that one of them, more than the others, was an urgent danger. There is none of the passion of conflict; Hilary is in the mood for rhetoric, and makes the most of his opportunities. He expatiates, for instance, on the greatness of his theme (ii. 5), harps almost to excess upon the fisherman to whom mysteries so great were revealed (ii. 13 ff.), dilates, after the manner of a sermon, upon the condescension and the glory manifested in the Incarnation, describes miracles with much liveliness of detail (iii. 5, 20), and ends the treatise (iii. 24–26) with a nobly eloquent statement of the paradox of wisdom which is folly and folly which is wisdom, and of faith as the only means of knowing God. The little work, though it deals professedly with certain heresies, is in the main constructive. It contains far more of positive assertion of the truth, without reference to opponents, than it does of criticism of their views. In sustained calmness of tone—it recognises the existence of honest doubt (iii. 1),—and in literary workmanship, it excels any other part of the De Trinitate and in the latter respect is certainly superior to the more conversational Homilies on the Psalms. But it suffers, in comparison with the books which follow, by a certain want of intensity; the reader feels that it was written, in one sense, for the sake of writing it, and written, in another sense, for purposes of general utility. It is not, as later portions of the work were, forged as a weapon for use in a conflict of life and death. Yet, standing as it does, at the beginning of the whole great treatise, it serves admirably as an introduction. It is clear, convincing and interesting, and its eloquent peroration carries the reader on to the central portion of the work, which begins with the fourth book. Except that the second book has lost its exordium, for the same reason that the seventh has lost its conclusion, the two books are complete as well as homogeneous. Of the date nothing definite can be said. There is no sign of any special interest in Arianism; and Hilary’s leisure for a paper conflict with a dead foe like Ebionism suggests that he was writing before the strife had reached Gaul. The general tone of the two books is quite consistent with this; and we may regard it as more probable than not that they were composed before the exile; whether they were published at the time as a separate treatise, or laid on one side for a while, cannot be known; the former supposition is the more reasonable.
The remaining books, from the eighth to the twelfth, appear to have been written xxxiiicontinuously, with a view to their forming part of the present connected whole. They were, no doubt, published separately, and they, with books iv. to vii., may well be the letters (stripped, of course, in their permanent shape of their epistolary accessories) which, Hilary feared, were obtaining no recognition from his friends in Gaul. The last five have certain references back to arguments in previous books7878 E.g. ix. 31 to iii. 12, ix. 43 to vii. 17., while these do not refer forward, nor do the groups ii. iii. and iv.–vii. refer to one another. But books viii.–xii. have also internal references, and promise that a subject shall be fully treated in due course7979 E.g. x. 54 in.. We may therefore assume that, when he began to write book viii., Hilary had already determined to make use of his previous minor works, and that he now proceeded to complete his task with constant reference to these. Evidences of exact date are here again lacking; he writes as a bishop and as an exile8080 viii. 1, x. 4., and under a most pressing necessity. The preface to book viii., with its description of the dangers of the time and of Hilary’s sense of the duty of a bishop, seems to represent the state of mind in which he resolved to construct the present De Trinitate. It is too emphatic for a mere transition from one step in a continuous discussion to another. Regarding these last five books, then, as written continuously, with one purpose and with one theological outlook, we may fix an approximate date for them by two considerations. They shew, in books ix. and x., that he was thoroughly conscious of the increasing peril of Apollinarianism. They shew also, by their silence, that he had determined to ignore what was one of the most obvious and certainly the most offensive of the current modes of thought. There is no refutation, except implicitly, and no mention of Anomœanism, that extreme Arianism which pronounced the Son unlike the Father8181 This heresy is not even mentioned in xii. 6, where the opening was obvious.. This can be explained only in one way. We have seen that Hilary thinks Arianism worth attack because it is an ’inward evil;’ that he does not, except in early and leisurely work such as book ii., pay any attention to heresies which were obviously outside the Church and had an organization of their own. We have seen also that the Homoeans cast out their more holiest Anomœan brethren in 359. The latter made no attempt to retrieve their position within the church; they proceeded to establish a Church of their own, which was, so they protested, the true one. It was under Jovian (a.d. 362–363) that they consecrated their own bishop for Constantinople8282 Dr. Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism, p. 226.; but the separation must have been visible for some time before that decisive step was taken. Thus, when the De Trinitate took its present form, Apollinarianism was risen above the Church’s horizon and Anomœanism was sunk below it. We cannot, therefore, put the completion of the work earlier shall the remission of Hilary’s exile; we cannot, indeed, suppose that he had leisure to make it perfect except in his home. Yet the work must have been for the most part finished before its writer reached Italy on his return; and the issue or reissue of its several portions was a natural, and certainly a powerful, measure towards the end which he had at heart.
There remains the first book, which was obviously, as Erasmus saw, the last to be composed. It is a survey of the accomplished task, beginning with that account of Hilary’s spiritual birth and growth which has already been mentioned. This is a piece of writing which it is no undue praise to rank, for dignity and felicity of language, among the noblest examples of Roman eloquence. Hooker, among English authors, is the one whom it most suggests. Then there follows a brief summary of the argument of the successive books, and a prayer for the success of the work. This reads, and perhaps it was meant to read, as though it were a prayer that he might worthily execute a plan which as yet existed only in his brain; but it may also be interpreted, in the more natural sense, as a petition that his hope might not be frustrated, and that his book might appear to others what he trusted, xxxivin his own mind, that it was, true to Scripture, sound in logic, and written with that lofty gravity which befitted the greatness of his theme.
After speaking of the construction of the work, as Hilary framed it, something must be said of certain interpolations which it has suffered. The most important are those at the end of book ix. and in x. 8, which flatly contradict his teaching8383 Cf. Gore’s Dissertations, p. 134.. They are obvious intrusions, imperfectly attested by manuscript authority, and condemned by their own character. Hilary was not the writer to stultify himself and confuse his readers by so clumsy a device as that of appending a bald denial of its truth to a long and careful exposition of his characteristic doctrine. Another passage, where the scholarship seems to indicate the work of an inferior hand, is Trin. x. 40, in which there is a singular misunderstanding of the Greek Testament8484 St. Luke xxii. 32, where ἐδεήθην is translated as a passive. Christ is entreated for Peter. There seems to be no parallel in Latin theology.. The writer must have known Greek, for no manuscript of the Latin Bible would have suggested his mistake, and therefore he must have written in early days. It is even possible that Hilary himself was, for once, at fault in his scholarship. Yet, at the most, the interpolations are few and, where they seriously affect the sense, are easily detected8585 E.g. the cento from the De Trinitate attached to the Invective against Constantius.. Not many authors of antiquity have escaped so lightly in this respect as Hilary.
Hilary certainly intended his work to be regarded as a whole; as a treatise Concerning the Faith, for it had grown into something more than a refutation of Arianism. He has carefully avoided, so far as the circumstances of the time and the composite character of the treatise would allow him, any allusion to names and events of temporary interest; there is, in fact, nothing more definite than a repetition of the wish expressed in the Second Epistle to Constantius, that it were possible to recur to the Baptismal formula as the authoritative statement of the Faith8686 ii. I.. It is not, like the De Synodis; written with a diplomatic purpose; it is, though cast inevitably in a controversial form, a statement of permanent truths. This has involved the sacrifice of much that would have been of immediate service, and deprived the book of a great part of its value as a weapon in the conflicts of the day. But we can see, by the selection he made of a document to controvert, that Hilary’s choice was deliberate. It was no recent creed, no confession to which any existing body of partisans was pledged. He chose for refutation the Epistle of Arius to Alexander, written almost forty years ago and destitute, it must have seemed, of any but an historical interest. And it was no extreme statement of the Arian position. This Epistle was ‘far more temperate and cautious8787 Newman, Arians of the Fourth Century, ii. v. 2.’ than its alternative, Arius’ letter to Eusebius. The same wide outlook as is manifest in this indifference to the interests of the moment is seen also in Hilary’s silence in regard to the names of friends and foes. Marcellus, Apollinaris, Eudoxius, Acacius are a few of those whom it must have seemed that he would do well to renounce as imagined friends who brought his cause discredit, or bitter enemies to truth and its advocates. But here also he refrains; no names are mentioned except those of men whose heresies were already the commonplaces of controversy. And there is also an absolute silence concerning the feuds and alliances of the day. No notice is taken of the loyalty of living confessors or the approximation to truth of well-meaning waverers. The book contains no sign that it has any but a general object; it is, as far as possible, an impersonal refutation of error and statement of truth.
This was the deliberate purpose of Hilary, and he had certainly counted its cost in immediate popularity and success. For though, as we have seen, the work did produce, as it deserved, a considerable effect at the time of its publication, it has remained ever since, in spite of all its merits, in a certain obscurity. There can be no doubt that this is largely due to the Mezentian union with such a document as Arius’ Epistle xxxvto Alexander of the decisively important section of the De Trinitate. The books in which that Epistle is controverted were those of vital interest for the age; and the method which Hilary’s plan constrained him to adopt was such as to invite younger theologians to compete with him. Future generations could not be satisfied with his presentation of the case. And again, his plan of refuting the Arian document point by point8888 v. 6., contrasting as it does with the free course of his thought in the earlier and later books, tends to repel the reader. The fourth book proves from certain texts that the Son is God; the fifth from the same texts that He is true God. Hence this part of the treatise is pervaded by a certain monotony; a cumulative impression is produced by our being led forward again and again along successive lines of argument to the same point, beyond which we make no progress till the last proof is stated. The work is admirably and convincingly done, but we are glad to hear the last of the Epistle of Arius to Alexander, and accompany Hilary in a less embarrassed enquiry.
Yet the whole work has defects of its own. It is burdened with much repetition; subjects, especially, which have been treated in books ii. and iii. are discussed again at great length in later books8989 E.g. bk. iii. is largely reproduced in ix.; ii. 9 f. = xi. 46 f.. The frequent stress laid upon the infinity of God, the limitations of human speech and knowledge, the consequent incompleteness of the argument from analogy, the humility necessary when dealing with infinities apparently opposed9090 E.g. i. 19, ii. 2, iii. 1, iv. 2, viii. 53, xi. 46 f., though it adds to the solemnity of the writer’s tone and was doubtless necessary when the work was published in parts, becomes somewhat tedious in the course of a continuous reading. And something must here be said of the peculiarities of style. We saw that in places, as for instance in the beginning of the De Trinitate, Hilary can rise to a singularly lofty eloquence. This eloquence is not merely the unstudied utterance of an earnest faith, but the expression given to it by one whom natural talent and careful training had made a master of literary form. Yet, since his training was that of an age whose standard of taste was far from classical purity, much that must have seemed to him and to his contemporaries to be admirably effective can excite no admiration now. He prays, at the end of the first book, that his diction may be worthy of his theme, and doubtless his effort was as sincere as his prayer. Had there been less effort, there would certainly, in the judgment of a modern reader, have been more success. But he could not foresee the future, and ingenious affectations such as occur at the end of book viii. § 1, impietati insolenti, et insolentiæ vaniloquæ, et vaniloquio seducenti, with the jingle of rhymes which follows, are too frequent for our taste in his pages9191 Cf. v. 1 (beginning of column 130 in Migne), x. 4.. Sometimes we find purple patches which remind us of the rhetoric of Apuleius9292 E.g. v. 3 fin.; sometimes an excessive display of symmetry and antithesis, which suggests to us St. Cyprian at his worst. Yet Cyprian had the excuse that all his writings are short occasional papers written for immediate effect; neither he, nor any Latin Christian before Hilary, had ventured to construct a great treatise of theology, intended to influence future ages as well as the present. Another excessive development of rhetoric is the abuse of apostrophe, which Hilary sometimes rides almost to death, as in his addresses to the Fisherman, St. John, in the second book9393 Cf. Ad Const. ii. 8, in writing which his own words in the De Trinitate must have come into his mind. He had probably borrowed the thought from Origen, contra Celsum, i. 62. Similar apostrophes are in v. 19, vi. 19 f., 33.. These blemishes, however, do not seriously affect his intelligibility. He has earned, in this as in greater matters, an unhappy reputation for obscurity, which he has, to a certain extent, deserved. His other writings, even the Commentary on St. Matthew, are free from the involved language which sometimes makes the De Trinitate hard to understand, and often hard to read with pleasure. When Hilary was appealing to the Emperor, or addressing his own flock, as in the Homilies on the Psalms, he has command of a style which is always clear, stately on occasion, never weak or xxxvibald; in these cases he resisted, or did not feel, the temptation to use the resources of his rhetoric. These, unfortunately, had for their result the production of sentences which are often marvels of grammatical contortion and elliptical ingenuity. Yet such sentences, though numerous, are of few and uniform types. In Hilary’s case, as in that of Tertullian, familiarity makes the reader so accustomed to them that he instinctively expects their recurrence; and, at their worst, they are never actual breaches of the laws of the language. A translator can hardly be an impartial judge in this matter, for constantly, in passages where the sense is perfectly clear, the ingenuity with which words and constructions are arranged makes it almost impossible to render their meaning in idiomatic terms. One can translate him out of Latin, but not into English. In this he resembles one of the many styles of St. Augustine. There are passages in the De Trinitate, for instance viii. 27, 28, which it would seem that Augustine had deliberately imitated; a course natural enough in the case of one who was deeply indebted to his predecessor’s thought, and must have looked with reverence upon the great pioneer of systematic theology in the Latin tongue. But this involution of style, irritating as it sometimes is, has the compensating advantage that it keeps the reader constantly on the alert. He cannot skim these pages in the comfortable delusion that he is following the course of thought without an effort.
The same attention which Hilary demands from his readers has obviously been bestowed upon the work by himself. It is the selected and compressed result not only of his general study of theology, but of his familiarity with the literature and the many phases of the great Arian controversy9494 Cf. x. 57 in.. And he makes it clear that he is engaged in no mere conflict of wit; his passionate loyalty to the person of Christ is the obvious motive of his writing. He has taken his side with full conviction, and he is equally convinced that his opponents have irrevocably taken theirs. There is little or no reference to the existence or even the possibility of doubt, no charitable construction for ambiguous creeds, hardly a word of pleading with those in error9595 All instance is xi. 24 in.. There is no excuse for heresy; it is mere insanity, when it is not wilful self-destruction or deliberate blasphemy. The battle is one without quarter; and sometimes, we must suspect, Hilary has been misled in argument by the uncompromising character of the conflict. Every reason advanced for a pernicious belief, he seems to think, must itself be bad, and be met with a direct negative. And again, in the heat of warfare he is led to press his arguments too far. Not only is the best and fullest use of Scripture made—for Hilary, like Athanasius, is marvellously imbued with its spirit as well as familiar with its letter—but texts are pressed into his service, and interpreted sometimes with brilliant ingenuity9696 E.g. in his masterly treatment, from his point of view, of the Old Testament Theophanies, iv. 15 f., which cannot bear the meaning assigned them. Yet much of this exegesis must be laid to the charge of his time, not of himself; and in the De Trinitate, as contrasted with the Homilies on the Psalms; he is wisely sparing in the use of allegorical interpretations. He remembers that he is refuting enemies, not conversing with friends. And his belief in their conscious insincerity leads to a certain hardness of tone. They will escape his conclusions if they possibly can; he must pin them down. Hence texts are sometimes treated, and deductions drawn from them, as though they were postulates of geometry; and, however we may admire the machine-like precision and completeness of the proof, we feel that we are reading Euclid rather than literature9797 Cf. viii. 26 f., ix. 41.. But this also is due to that system of exegesis, fatal to any recognition of the eloquence and poetry of Scripture, of which something will be said in the next chapter.
These, after all, are but petty flaws in so great a work. Not only as a thinker, but as a pioneer of thought, whose treasures have enriched, often unrecognised, the pages xxxviiof Ambrose and Augustine and all later theologians, he deserves our reverence. Not without reason was he ranked, within a generation of his death, with Cyprian and Ambrose, as one of the three chief glories of Western Christendom9898 Orosius, Apol. 1.. Jerome and Augustine mention him frequently and with honour. This is not the place to summarise or discuss the contents of his works; but the reader cannot fail to recognise their great and varied value, the completeness of his refutation of current heresies, the convincing character of his presentation of the truth, and the originality, restrained always by scrupulous reverence as well as by intellectual caution, of his additions to the speculative development of the Faith. We recognise also the tenacity with which, encumbered as he was with the double task of simultaneously refuting Arianism and working out his own thoughts, he has adhered to the main issues. He never wanders into details, but keeps steadfastly to his course. He refrains, for instance, from all consideration of the results which Arianism might produce upon the superstructure of the Faith and upon the conduct of Christians; they are undermining the foundations, and he never forgets that it is these which he has undertaken to strengthen and defend. Our confidence in him as a guide is increased by the eminently businesslike use which he makes of his higher qualities. This is obvious in the smallest details, as, for instance, in his judicious abstinence, which will be considered in the next chapter, from the use of technical terms of theology, when their employment would have made his task easier, and might even, to superficial minds, have enhanced his reputation. We see it also in the talent which he shews in the device of watchwords, which serve both to enliven his pages and to guide the reader through their argument. Such is the frequent antithesis of the orthodox unitas with the heretical unio, the latter a harmless word in itself and used by Tertullian indifferently with the former, but seized by the quick intelligence of Hilary to serve this special end9999 E.g. iv. 42, fin.; such also, the frequent ‘Not two Gods but One100100 E.g. i. 17.,’ and the more obvious contrast between the Catholic unum and the Arian unus. Thus, in excellence of literary workmanship, in sustained cogency and steady progress of argument, in the full use made of rare gifts of intellect and heart, we must recognise that Hilary has brought his great undertaking to a successful issue; that the voyage beset with many perils, to use his favourite illustration, has safely ended in the haven of Truth and Faith.
Whether the De Trinitate were complete or not at the time of his return to Poitiers, after the triumphal passage through Italy, its publication in its final form must very shortly have followed. But literature was, for the present, to claim only the smaller share of his attention. Heartily as he must have rejoiced to be again in his home, he had many anxieties to face. The bishops of Gaul, as we saw from the Invective against Constantius, had been less militant against their Arian neighbours than he had wished. There had been peace in the Church; such peace as could be produced by a mutual ignoring of differences. And it may well be that the Gallican bishops, in their prejudice against the East, thought that Hilary himself had gone too far in the path of conciliation, and that his alliance with the Semiarians was a much longer step towards compromise with heresy than their own prudent neutrality. Each side must have felt that there was something to be explained. Hilary, for his part, by the publication of the De Trinitate had made it perfectly clear that his faith was above suspicion; and his abstinence in that work from all mention of existing parties or phases of the controversy shewed that he had withdrawn from his earlier position. He was now once more a Western bishop, concerned only with absolute truth and the interests of the Church in his own province. But he had to reckon with the sterner champions of the Nicene faith, who xxxviiihad not forgotten the De Synodis, however much they might approve the De Trinitate. Some curious fragments survive of the Apology which he was driven to write by the attacks of Lucifer of Cagliari. Lucifer, one of the exiles of Milan, was an uncompromising partisan, who could recognise no distinctions among those who did not accept the Nicene Creed. All were equally bad in his eyes; no explaining away of differences or attempt at conciliation was lawful. In days to come he was to be a thorn in the side of Athanasius, and was to end his life in a schism which he formed because the Catholic Church was not sufficiently exclusive. We, who know his after history and turn with repugnance from the monotonous railing with which his writings, happily brief, are filled, may be disposed to underestimate the man. But at the time he was a formidable antagonist. He had the great advantage of being one of the little company of confessors of the Faith, whom all the West admired. He represented truly enough the feeling of the Latin Churches, now that the oppression of their leaders had awakened their hostility to Arianism. And vigorous abuse, such as the facile pen of Lucifer could pour forth, is always interesting when addressed to prominent living men, stale though it becomes when the passions of the moment are no longer felt. Lucifer’s protest is lost, but we may gather from the fragments of Hilary’s reply that it was milder in tone than was usual with him. Indeed, confessor writing to confessor would naturally use the language of courtesy. But it was an arraignment of the policy which Hilary had adopted, and in which he had failed, though Athanasius was soon to resume it with better success. And courteously as it may have been worded, it cannot have been pleasant for Hilary to be publicly reminded of his failure, and to have doubts cast upon his consistency; least of all when he was returning to Gaul with new hopes, but also with new difficulties. His reply, so far as we can judge of it from the fragments which remain, was of a tone which would be counted moderate in the controversies of to-day. He addresses his opponent as ‘Brother Lucifer,’ and patiently explains that he has been misunderstood. There is no confession that he had been in the wrong, though he fully admits that the term homoiousion, innocently used by his Eastern friends, was employed by others in a heretical sense. And he points out that Lucifer himself had spoken of the ‘likeness’ of Son and Father, probably alluding to a passage in his existing writings101101 Cf. Krüger, Lucifer Bischof von Calaris, p. 39.. The use of this tu quoque argument, and a certain apologetic strain which is apparent in the reply, seem to shew that Hilary felt himself at a disadvantage. He must have wished the Asiatic episode to be forgotten; he had now to make his weight felt in the West, where he had good hope that a direct and uncompromising attack upon Arianism would be successful.
For a great change was taking place in public affairs. When Hilary left Constantinople, early in the spring of the year 360, it was probably a profound secret in the capital that a rupture between Constantius and Julian was becoming inevitable. In affairs, civil and ecclesiastical, the Emperor and his favourite, the bishop Saturnine, must have seemed secure of their dominance in Gaul. But events moved rapidly. Constantius needed troops to strengthen the Eastern armies, never adequate to an emergency, for an impending war with Persia; he may also have desired to weaken the forces of Julian. He demanded men; those whom Julian detached for Eastern service refused to march, and proclaim Julian Emperor at Paris. This was in May, some months, at the least, before Hilary, delayed by his Italian labours in the cause of orthodoxy, can have reached home. Julian temporised; he kept up negotiations with Constantius, and employed his army in frontier warfare. But there could be no doubt of the issue. Conflict was inevitable, and the West could have little fear as to the result. The Western armies were the strongest in the Empire; it was with them that, in the last great trial of strength, xxxixConstantine the Great had won the day, and the victory of his nephew, successful and popular both as a commander and an administrator, must have been anticipated. Julian’s march against Constantius did not commence till the summer of the year 361; but long before this the rule of Constantius and the theological system for which he stood had been rejected by Gaul. The bishops had not shunned Saturninus, as Hilary had desired; most of them had been induced to give their sanction to Arianism at the Council of Rimini. While overshadowed by Constantius and his representative Saturninus, they had not dared to assert themselves. But now the moment was come, and with it the leader. Hilary’s arrival in Gaul must have taken place when the conflict was visibly impending, and he can have had no hesitation as to the side he should take. Julian’s rule in Gaul began but a few months before his exile, and they had probably never met face to face. But Julian had a well earned reputation as a righteous governor, and Hilary had introduced his name into his second appeal to Constantius, as a witness to his character and as suffering in fame by the injustice of Constantius. We must remember that Julian had kept his paganism carefully concealed, and that all the world, except a few intimate friends, took it for granted that he was, as the high standard of his life seemed to indicate, a sincere Christian. And now he had displaced Constantius in the supreme rule over Gaul, and Saturninus, who had by this time returned, was powerless. We cannot wonder that Hilary continued his efforts; that he went through the land, everywhere inducing the bishops to abjure their own confession made at Rimini. This the bishops, for their part, were certainly willing to do; they were no Arians at heart, and their treatment at Rimini, followed as it was by a fraudulent misrepresentation of the meaning of their words, must have aroused their just resentment. Under the rule of Julian there was no risk, there was even an advantage, in shewing their colours; it set them right both with the new Emperor and with public opinion. But it was not enough for Hilary’s purpose that the ‘inward evil’ of a wavering faith should be amended; it was also necessary that avowed heresy should be expelled. For this the co-operation of Julian was necessary; and before it was granted Julian might naturally look for some definite pronouncement on Hilary’s part. To this conjuncture, in the latter half of the year 360 or the earlier part of 361, we may best assign the publication of the Invective, already described, against Constantius. It was a renunciation of allegiance to his old master, not the less clear because the new is not mentioned. And with the name of Constantius was coupled that of Saturninus, as his abettor in tyranny and misbelief. Julian recognised the value of the Catholic alliance by giving effect to the decision of a Council held at Paris, which deposed Saturninus. Hilary had no ecclesiastical authority to gather such a Council, but his character and the eminence of his services no doubt rendered his colleagues willing to follow him; yet neither he nor they would have acted as they did without the assurance of Julian’s support. Their action committed them irrevocably to Julian’s cause; and it must have seemed that his expulsion of Saturninus committed him irrevocably to the orthodox side. Yet Julian impartially disbelieving both creeds, had made the ostensible cause of Saturninus’ exile not his errors of faith, but some of those charges of misconduct which were always forthcoming when a convenient excuse was wanted for the banishment of a bishop. Saturninus was a man of the world, and very possibly his Arianism was only assumed in aid of his ambition; it is likely enough that his conduct furnished sufficient grounds for his punishment. The fall of its chief, Sulpicius Severus says, destroyed the party. The other Arian prelates, who must have been few in number, submitted to the orthodox tests, with one exception. Paternus of Périgord, a man of no fame, had the courage of his convictions. He stubbornly asserted his belief, and shared the fate of Saturninus. Thus Hilary obtained, what he had failed to get in the case of the more prominent offender, a clear precedent for the deposition of bishops guilty of Arianism. xlThe synodical letter, addressed to the Eastern bishops in reply to letters which some of them had sent to Hilary since his return, was incorporated by him in his History, to be mentioned hereafter102102 Fragment xi.. The bishops of Gaul assert their orthodoxy, hold Auxentius, Valens, Ursacius and their like excommunicate, and have just excommunicated Saturninus. By his action at Paris, so Sulpicius says, Hilary earned the glory that it was by his single exertions that the provinces of Gaul were cleansed from the defilements of heresy103103 Chron. ii. 45..
These events happened before Julian left the country, in the middle of the summer of 361, on his march against Constantius; or at least, if the actual proceedings were subsequent to his departure, they must have quickly followed it, for his sanction was necessary, and when that was obtained there was no motive for delay. And now, for some years, Hilary disappears from sight. He tells us nothing in his writings of the ordinary course of his life and work; even his informal and discursive Homilies cast no light upon his methods of administration, his successes or failures, and very little on the character of his flock. There was no further conflict within the Church of Gaul during Hilary’s lifetime. The death of Constantius, which happened before Julian could meet him in battle, removed all political anxiety. Julian himself was too busy with the revival of paganism in the East to concern himself seriously with its promotion in the Latin-speaking provinces, from which he was absent, and for which he cared less. The orthodox cause in Gaul did not suffer by his apostasy. His short reign was followed by the still briefer rule of the Catholic Jovian. Next came Valentinian, personally orthodox, but steadily refusing to allow depositions on account of doctrine. Under him Arianism dwindled away; Catholic successors were elected to Arian prelates, and the process would have been hastened but by a few years had Hilary been permitted to expel Auxentius from Milan, as we shall presently see him attempting to do.
This was his last interference in the politics of the Church, and does not concern us as yet. His chief interest henceforth was to be in literary work; in popularising and, as he thought, improving upon the teaching of Origen. He commented upon the book of Job, as we know from Jerome and Augustine. The former says that this, and his work on the Psalms, were translations from Origen. But that is far from an accurate account of the latter work, and may be equally inaccurate concerning the former. The two fragments which St. Augustine has preserved from the Commentary on Job are so short that we cannot draw from them any conclusion as to the character of the book. If we may trust Jerome, its length was somewhat more than a quarter of that of the Homilies on the Psalms104104 Jerome, Apol. adv. Rufinum, i. 2, says that the total length of the Commentaries on Job and the Psalms was about 40,000 lines, i.e. Virgilian hexameters. The latter, at a tough estimate, must be nearly 35,000 lines in its present state. But Jerome, as we shall see, was not acquainted with so many Homilies as have come down to us; we must deduct about 5,000 lines, and this will leave l0,000 for the Commentary on Job, making it two sevenths of the length of the other. Jerome, however, is not careful in his statements of lengths; he calls the short De Synodis ‘a very long book,’ Ep. v. 2., in their present form. It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the work should have fallen into oblivion. It was, no doubt, allegorical in its method, and nothing of that kind could survive in competition with Gregory the Great’s inimitable Moralia on Job.
Hilary’s other adaptation from Origen, the Homilies on the Psalms, happily remains to us. It is at least as great a work as the De Trinitate, and one from which we can learn even more what manner of man its writer was. For the De Trinitate is an appeal to all thoughtful Christians of the time, and written for future generations as well as for them; characteristic, as it is, in many ways of the author, the compass of the work and the stateliness of its rhetoric tend to conceal his personality. But the Homilies105105 Tractatusought to be translated thus. It is the term, and the only term, used so early as this for the bishop’s address to the congregation; in fact, one might almost say that tractare, tractatus in Christian language had no other meaning. It is an anachronism in the fourth century to render prædicare by ‘preach;’ cf. Duchesne, Liber Pontificalis, i. 126.on the Psalms, which would seem to have xlireached us in the notes of a shorthand writer, so artless and conversational is the style, shew us Hilary in another aspect. He is imparting instruction to his own familiar congregation; and he knows his people so well that he pours out whatever is passing through his mind. In fact, he seems often to be thinking aloud on subjects which interest him rather than addressing himself to the needs of his audience. Practical exhortation has, indeed, a much smaller space than mystical exegesis and speculative Christology. Yet abstruse questions are never made more obscure by involution of style. The language is free and flowing, always that of an educated man who has learnt facility by practice. And here, strange as it seems to a reader of the De Trinitate, he betrays a preference for poetical words106106 E.g. fundamen, Tr. in Ps. cxxviii. 10, germen, cxxxiv. 1, revolubilis, ii. 23, peccamen, ii. 9 fin. and often. The shape of sentences, though simple, is always good; to take one test word, sæpe, which was almost if not quite extinct in common use, occurs fairly often near the end of a period, where it was needed for rhythm, which frequenter would have spoiled. Some Psalms, e.g. xiii., xiv., are treated more rhetorically than others., which shews that his renunciation of such ornament elsewhere is deliberate. Yet, even here, he indulges in no definite reminiscences of the poets.
There remains only one trace, though it is sufficient, of the original circumstances of delivery. The Homily on Psalm xiv. begins with the words, ‘The Psalm which has been read.’ The Psalms were sung as an act of worship, not read as a lesson, in the normal course of divine service; and therefore we must assume that the Psalm to be expounded was recited, by the rector or another, as an introduction to the Homily. We need not be surprised that such notices, which must have seemed to possess no permanent interest, have been edited away. Many of the Homilies are too long to have been delivered on one or even two occasions, yet the ascription of praise with which Hilary, like Origen, always concludes,107107 Psalm li. is the only exception, due, no doubt, to careless transcription. The Homilies on the titles of Psalms ix. and xci. do not count; they are probably spurious, and in any case are incomplete, as the text of the Psalms is not discussed. has been omitted in every case except at the end of the whole discourse. This shews that Hilary himself, or more probably some editor, has put the work into its final shape. But this editing of the Homilies has not extended to the excision of the numerous repetitions, which were natural enough when Hilary was delivering each as a commentary complete in itself, and do not offend us when we read the discourse on a single Psalm, though they certainly disfigure the work when regarded as a treatise on the whole Psalter.
It is probably due to the accidents of time that our present copies of the Homilies are imperfect. We are, indeed, better off than was Jerome. His manuscript contained Homilies on Psalms 1, 2, 51–62, 118–150, according to the Latin notation. We have, in addition to these, Homilies which are certainly genuine on Psalms 13, 14, 63–69; and others on the titles of Psalms 9 and 91, which are probably spurious108108 So Zingerle, Preface, p. xiv, to whom we owe the excellent Vienna Edition of the Homilies, the only part of Hilary’s writing which has as yet appeared in a critical text. The writer of the former of these two Homilies, in § 2, says that the title of a Psalm always corresponds to the contents. This is quite contrary to Hilary’s teaching, who frequently points out and ingeniously explains what seem to him, to be discrepancies.. Some more Homilies of uncertain origin which have been fathered upon Hilary, and may be found in the editions, may be left out of account. In the Homily on Psalm 59, § 2, he mentions one, unknown to Jerome as to ourselves, on Psalm 44; and this allusion, isolated though it is, suggests that the Homilies contained, or were meant to contain, a commentary on the whole Book of Psalms, composed in the order in which they stand. There is, of course, nothing strange in the circulation in ancient times of imperfect copies; a well-known instance is that of St. Augustine’s copy of Cyprian which did not contain an epistle which has come down to us. This series of Homilies was probably continuous as well as complete. The incidental allusions to the events of the times contain nothing inconsistent with the supposition that he began at the beginning of the Psalter and went on to the end. We might, indeed, construe the language of that on Psalm 52, § 13, concerning prosperous clergy, who heap up wealth for themselves and live in luxury, as an allusion to men like Saturninus, but the passage is vague, and a vivid recollection, xliinot a present evil, may have suggested it. More definite, and indeed a clear note of time, is the Homily on Psalm 63, where heathenism is aggressive and is become a real danger, of which Hilary speaks in the same terms as he does of heresy. This contrasts strongly with such language as that of the Homily on Psalm 67, § 20, where the heathen are daily flocking into the Church, or of that on Psalm 137, § 10, where paganism has collapsed, its temples are ruined and its oracles silent; such words as the former could only have been written in the short reign of Julian. Other indications, such as the frequent warnings against heresy and denunciations of heretics, are too general to help in fixing the date. On the whole, it would seem a reasonable hypothesis that Hilary began his connected series of Homilies on the Psalms soon after his return to Gaul, that he had made good progress with them when Julian publicly apostatised, and that they were not completed till the better times of Valentinian.
He was conversing in pastoral intimacy with his people, and hence we cannot be surprised that he draws, perhaps unconsciously, on the results of his own previous labours. For instance, on Psalm 61, § 2, he gives what is evidently a reminiscence, yet with features of its own and not as a professed autobiography, of his mental history as described in the opening of the De Trinitate. And while the direct controversy against Arianism is not avoided, there is a manifest preference for the development of Hilary’s characteristic Christology, which had already occupied him in the later books of the De Trinitate. We must, indeed, reconstruct his doctrine in this respect even more from the Homilies than from the De Trinitate; and in the later work he not only expands what he had previously suggested, but throws out still further suggestions which he had not the length of life to present in a more perfect form. But the Homilies contain much that is of far less permanent interest. Wherever he can109109 E.g. in the Instruction or discourse preparatory to the Homilies, and in the introductory sections of that on Ps. 118 (119)., he brings in the mystical interpretation of numbers, that strange vagary of the Eastern mind which had, at least from the time of Irenæus and the Epistle of Barnabas, found a congenial home in Christian thought. This and other distortions of the sense of Scripture, which are the result in Hilary, as in Origen, of a prosaic rather than a poetical turn of mind, will find a more appropriate place for discussion at the beginning of the next chapter. Allusions to the mode of worship of his time are very rare110110 E.g. Instr. in Ps., § 12, the fifty days of rejoicing during which Christians must not prostrate themselves in prayer, nor fast., as are details of contemporary life. Of general encouragement to virtue and denunciation of vice there is abundance, and it repeats with striking fidelity the teaching of Cyprian. Hilary displays the same Puritanism in regard to jewelry as does Cyprian111111 Ps. 118, Ain., § 16., and the same abhorrence of public games and spectacles. Of these three elements, the Christology, the mysticism, the moral teaching, the Homilies are mainly compact. They carry on no sustained argument and contain, as has been said, a good deal of repetition. In fact, a continuous reader will probably form a worse impression of their quality than he who is satisfied with a few pages at a time. They are eminently adapted for selection, and the three Homilies, those on Psalms 1, 53 and 130, which have been translated for this volume, may be inadequate, yet are fairly representative, as specimens of the instruction which Hilary conveys in this work.
It has been said that the practical teaching of Hilary is that of Cyprian. But this is not a literary debt112112 The account of exorcism given on Ps. 64, § 10, suggests Cyprian, Ad. Don. 5, but the subject is such a commonplace that nothing definite can be said.; the writer to whom almost all the exegesis is due, by borrowing of substance or of method, is Origen, except where the spirit of the fourth century has been at work. Yet other authors have been consulted, and this not only for general information, as in the case, already cited, of the elder Pliny, but for interpretation of the Psalms. For instance, a strange legend concerning Mount Hermon is cited on Psalm 132, § 6, from a writer whose name Hilary does not know; and on Psalm 133, § 4, he has consulted several writers and rejects the opinion of them all. But these authorities, whoever they may have been, were of little xliiiimportance for his purpose in comparison with Origen. Still we can only accept Jerome’s assertion that the Homilies are translated from Origen in a qualified sense. Hilary was writing for the edification of his own flock, and was obliged to modify much that Origen had said if he would serve their needs, for religious thought had changed rapidly in the century which lay between the two, and a mere translation would have been as coldly received as would a reprint of some commentary of the age of George II. to-day. And Hilary’s was a mind too active and independent to be the slave of a traditional interpretation. We must, therefore, expect to find a considerable divergence; and we cannot be surprised that Hilary, as he settled down to his task, grew more and more free in his treatment of Origen’s exegesis.
Unhappily the remains of Origen’s work upon the Psalms, though considerable, are fragmentary, and of the fragments scattered through Catenæ no complete or critical edition has yet been made. Still, insufficient as the material would be for a detailed study and comparison, enough survives to enable us to form a general idea of the relation between the two writers. Origen113113 He is here cited by the volume and page of the edition by Lommatzsch. His system of interpretation is admirably described in the fourth of Dr. Bigg’s Bampton Lectures, The Christian Platonists of Alexandria. composed Homilies upon the Psalter, a Commentary upon it, and a summary treatise, called the Enchiridion. The first of these works was Hilary’s model; Origen’s Homilies were diffuse extemporary expositions, ending, like Hilary’s, with an ascription of praise. It is unfortunate that, of the few which survive, all treat of Psalms on which Hilary’s Homilies are lost. But it is doubtful whether Hilary knew the other writings of Origen upon the Psalter. We have ourselves a very small knowledge of them, for the Catenæ are not in the habit of giving more than the name of the author whom they cite. Yet it may well be that some of the apparent discrepancies between the explanations given by Hilary and by Origen are due to the loss of the passage from Origen’s Homily which would have agreed with Hilary, and to the survival of the different rendering given in the Commentary or the Enchiridion; some, no doubt, are also due to the carelessness and even dishonesty of the compilers of Catenæ in stating the authorship of their selections. But though it is possible that Hilary had access to all Origen’s writings on the Psalms, there is no reason to suppose that he possessed a copy of his Hexapla. The only translation of the Old Testament which he names beside the Septuagint is that of Aquila; he is aware that there are others, but none save the Septuagint has authority or deserves respect, and his rare allusions to them are only such as we find in Origen’s Homilies, and imply no such exhaustive knowledge of the variants as a possessor of the Hexapla would have.
A comparison of the two writers shews the closeness of their relation, and if we had Origen’s complete Homilies, and not mere excerpts, the debt of Hilary would certainly be still more manifest. For the compilers of Catenæ have naturally selected what was best in Origen, and most suited for short extracts; his eccentricities have been in great measure omitted. Hence we may err in attributing to Hilary much that is perverse in his comments; there is an abundance of wild mysticism in the fragments of Origen, but its proportion to the whole is undoubtedly less in their present state than in their original condition. Hilary’s method was that of paraphrasing, not of servile translation. There is apparently only one literal rendering of an extant passage of Origen, and that a short one114114 Hil. Tr. in Ps. 13, § 3, his igitur ita grassantibus, sq. = Origen (ed. Lommatzsch) xii. 38.; but paraphrases, which often become very diffuse expansions, are constant115115 E.g. Instr. in Ps., § 15 = Origen in Eusebius, H.E. vi. 25 (Philocalia 3), Hilary on Ps. 51, §§ 3, 7 = Origen xii. 353, 354, and very often on Ps. 118 (119), e.g. the Introduction = Or. xiii. 67 f., Aleph, § 12 = ib. 70, Beth, § 6 = ib. 71, Caph, §§ 4, 9 = ib. 82, 83, &c.. But a just comparison between the two must embrace their differences as well as their resemblances. Hilary has exercised a silent criticism in omitting many of Origen’s textual disquisitions. He gives, it is true, many various readings, but his confidence in the Septuagint often renders him indifferent in regard to xlivdivergencies which Origen had taken seriously. The space which the latter devotes to the Greek versions Hilary employs in correcting the errors and variations of the Latin, or in explaining the meaning of Greek words. But these are matters which rather belong to the next chapter, concerning, as they do, Hilary’s attitude towards Scripture. It is more significant of his tone of mind that he has omitted Origen’s speculations on the resurrection of the body, preserved by Epiphanius116116 Hæres. 64, 12 f., and on the origin of evil117117 Origen xiii. 134. Hilary has omitted this from his Homily on Ps. 134, § 12.. Again, Origen delights to give his readers a choice of interpretations; Hilary chooses one of those which Origen has given, and makes no mention of the other. This is his constant habit in the earlier part of the Homilies; towards the end, however, he often gives a rendering of his own, and also mentions, either as possible or as wrong, that which Origen had offered. Or else, though he only makes his own suggestion, yet it is obvious to those who have Origen at hand that he has in his mind, and is refuting for his own satisfaction, an alternative which he does not think good to lay before his audience118118 Instances of such independence are Ps. 118, Daleth, § 6 (xiii. 74), 119, § 15 (ib. 108), 122, § 2 (ib. 112), 133, § 3 (ib. 131). The references to Origen are in brackets.. A similar liberty with his original occurs in the Homily on Psalm 135, § 12:—‘The purposes of the present discourse and of this place forbid us to search more deeply.’ This must have seemed a commonplace to his hearers; but it happens that Origen’s speculations upon the passage have survived, and we can see that Hilary was rather making excuses to himself for his disregard of them than directly addressing his congregation. Apart from the numerous instances where Hilary derives a different result from the same data, there are certain cases where he accepts the current Latin text, though it differed from Origen’s Greek, and draws, without any reference to Origen, his own conclusions as to the meaning119119 E.g. Ps. 118, Heth, § 10, 121, § 1; Origen xiii. 80, 111.. These, again, seem to be confined to the latter part of the work, and may be the result of occasional neglect to consult the authorities, rather than a deliberate departure from Origen’s teaching.
But the chief interest of the comparison between the writings of these two Fathers upon the Psalms lies in the insight which it affords into their respective modes of thought. Fragmentary as they are, Origen’s words are a manifestly genuine and not inadequate expression of his mind; and Hilary, a recognised authority and conscious of his powers, has so moulded and transformed his original, now adapting and now rejecting, that he has made it, even on the ground which is common to both, a true and sufficient representation of his own mental attitude. The Roman contrasts broadly with the Greek. He constantly illustrates his discourse with historical incidents of Scripture, taken in their literal sense; there are few such in Origen. Origen is full, as usual, of praises of the contemplative state; in speculation upon Divine things consists for him the happiness everywhere promised to the saints. Hilary ignores abstract speculation, whether as a method of interpretation or as a hope for the future, and actually describes120120 Ps. 118, Gimel, § 21. the contemplation of God’s dealings with men as merely one among other modes of preparation for eternal blessings. In the same discourse he paraphrases the words of Origen, ‘He who has done all things that conduce to the knowledge of God,’ by ‘They who have the abiding sense of a cleansed heart121121 Origen xiii. 72; Hilary, Ps. 118, Gimel, § 1..’ Though he is the willing slave of the allegorical method, yet he revolts from time to time against its excesses in Origen; their treatment of Psalm 126, in the one case practical, in the other mystical, is a typical example122122 Cf. also Ps. 118, Heth, § 7, Koph, § 4, with Origen xiii. 79, 98. Here again the spirit of independence manifests itself towards the end of the work.. Hilary’s attention is fixed on concrete things; the enemies denounced in the Psalms mean for him the heretics of the day, while Origen had recognised in them the invisible agency of evil spirits123123 Cf. Ps. 118, Samech, § 6; Origen xiii. 92.. The words ‘Who teacheth my hands to fight’ suggest to Origen intellectual weapons and victories; they remind Hilary of the ‘I have xlvovercome the world’ of Christ124124 Ps. 143, § 4; Origen xiii. 149.. In fact, the thought of Hilary was so charged with definite convictions concerning Christ, and so impressed with their importance that his very earnestness and concentration betrays him into error of interpretation. It would be an insufficient, yet not a false, contrast between him and Origen to say that the latter distorts, with an almost playful ingenuity, the single words or phrases of Scripture, while Hilary, with masterful indifference to the principles of exegesis, will force a whole chapter to render the sense which he desires. And his obvious sincerity, his concentration of thought upon one great and always interesting doctrine, his constant appeal to what seems to be, and sometimes is, the exact sense of Scripture, and the vigour of his style, far better adapted to its purpose than that of Origen; all these render him an even more convincing exponent than the other of the bad system of interpretation which both have adopted. Sound theological deductions and wise moral reflections on every page make the reader willing to pardon a vicious method, for Hilary’s doctrine is never based upon his exegesis of the Psalms. No primary truth depends for him upon allegory or mysticism, and it may be that he used the method with the less caution because he looked for nothing more than that it should illustrate and confirm what was already established. Since, then, the permanent interest of the work is that it shews us what seemed to Hilary, as a representative of his age, to be the truth, and we have in it a powerful and original presentation of that truth, we can welcome, as a quaint and not ungraceful enlivening of his argument, this ingenuity of misinterpretation. And we may learn also a lesson for ourselves of the importance of the doctrine which he inculcates with such perseverance. Confronting him as it did, in various aspects, at every turn and in the most unlikely places during his journey through the Psalter, his faith concerning Christ was manifestly in Hilary’s eyes the vital element of religion.
The Homilies on the Psalms have never been a popular work. Readable as they are, and free from most of the difficulties which beset the De Trinitate, posterity allowed them to be mutilated, and, as we saw, only a portion has come down to us. Their chief influence, like that of the other treatise, has been that which Hilary has exercised through them upon writers of greater fame. Ambrose has borrowed from them liberally and quite uncritically for his own exposition of certain of the Psalms; and Ambrose, accredited by his own fame and that of his greater friend Augustine, has quite overshadowed the fame of Hilary. The Homilies may, perhaps, have also suffered from an undeserved suspicion that anything written by the author of the De Trinitate would be hard to read. They have, in any case, been little read; and yet, as the first important example in Latin literature of the allegorical method, and as furnishing the staple of a widely studied work of St. Ambrose, they have profoundly affected the course of Christian thought. Their historical interest as well as their intrinsic value commands our respect.
In his Homily on Psalm 138, § 4, Hilary briefly mentions the Patriarchs as examples of faith and adds, ‘but these are matters of which we must discourse more suitably and fully in their proper place.’ This is a promise to which till of late no known work of our writer corresponded. Jerome had, indeed, informed us125125 Vir. Ill. 100. that Hilary had composed a treatise entitled De Mysteriis, but no one had connected it with his words in the Homily. It had been supposed that the lost treatise dealt with the sacraments, in spite of the facts that it is Hilary’s custom to speak of types as ‘mysteries,’ and that the sacraments are a theme upon which he never dwells. But in 1887 a great portion of Hilary’s actual treatise on the Mysteries was recovered in the same manuscript which contained the more famous Pilgrimage to the Holy Places of Silvia of Aquitaine126126 J. F. Gamurrini, S. Hilarii Tractatus de Mysteriis et Hymni, etc., 4to., Rome, 1887. The De Mysteriis occupies pp. 3–28.. It is a short treatise of two books, unhappily mutilated at the beginning, in the middle and near the end, though the peroration has survived. The title is xlvilost, but there is no reason to doubt that Jerome was nearly right in calling it a tractatus, though he would have done better had he used the plural. It is written in the same easy style as the Homilies on the Psalms, and if it was not originally delivered as two homilies, as is probable, it must be a condensation of several discourses into a more compact form. The first book deals with the Patriarchs, the second with the Prophets, regarded as types of Christ. The whole is written from the point of view with which Hilary’s other writings have made us familiar. Every deed recorded in Scripture proclaims or typifies or proves the advent of the incarnate Christ, and it is Hilary’s purpose to display the whole of His work as reflected in the Old Testament, like an image in a mirror. He begins with Adam and goes on to Moses, deriving lessons from the lives of all the chief characters, often with an exercise of great ingenuity. For instance, in the history of the Fall Eve is the Church, which is sinful but shall be saved through bearing children in Baptism127127 Ed. Gamurrini, p. 5.; the burning bush is a type of the endurance of the Church, of which St. Paul speaks in 2 Cor. iv. 8128128 Ib. p. 17.; the manna was found in the morning, the time of Christ’s Resurrection and therefore of the reception of heavenly food in the Eucharist. They who collect too much are heretics with their excess of argument129129 Ib. p. 21; there is the not uncommon play on the two senses of colligere.. In the second book we have a fragmentary and desultory treatment of incidents in the lives of the Prophets, which Hilary ends by saying that in all the events which he has recorded we recognise ‘God the Father and God the Son, and God the Son from God the Father, Jesus Christ, God and Man130130 Ib. p. 27..’ The peroration, in fact, reads like a summary of the argument of the De Trinitate. Of the genuineness of the little work there can be no doubt. Its language, its plan, its arguments are unmistakably those of Hilary131131 It must be confessed that some authorities refuse to regard this work as the De Mysteriis of Hilary. Among these is Ebert, Litteratur des Mittelalters, p. 142, who admits that the matter might be Hilary’s, but denies that the manner and style are his.. The homilies were probably delivered soon after he had finished his course on the Psalms, of which they contain some reminiscences, such as we saw are found in the later Homilies on the Psalms of earlier passages in the same. In all probability the subject matter of the De Mysteriis is mainly drawn from Origen. It is too short, and too much akin to Hilary’s more important writings, to cast much light upon his modes of thought. He has, indeed, no occasion to speak here upon the points on which his teaching is most original and characteristic.
In this same manuscript, discovered by Gamurrini at Arezzo, are the remains of what professes to be Hilary’s collection of hymns. He has always had the fame of being the earliest Latin hymn writer. This was, indeed, a task which the circumstances of his life must have suggested to him. The conflict with Arianism forced him to become the pioneer of systematic theology in the Latin tongue; it also drove him into exile in the East, where he must have acquainted himself with the controversial use made of hymnody by the Arians. Thus it was natural that he should have introduced hymns also into the West. But if the De Trinitate had little success, the hymns were still more unfortunate. Jerome tells us that Hilary complained of finding the Gauls unteachable in sacred song132132 Comm. in Ep. ad Gal. ii. pref.: Hilarius in hymnorum carmine Gallos indociles vocat. This may mean that Hilary actually used the words ‘stubborn Gauls’ in one of his hymns. There would be nothing extraordinary in this; the early efforts, and especially those of the Arians which Hilary imitated for a better purpose, often departed widely from the propriety of later compositions, as we shall see in one of those attributed to Hilary himself.; and there is no reason to suppose that he had any wide or permanent success in introducing hymns into public worship133133 It is true that the Fourth Council of Toledo (a.d. 633) in its 13th canon couples Hilary with Ambrose as the writer of hymns in actual use. But these canons are verbose productions, and this may be a mere literary flourish, natural enough in countrymen and contemporaries of Isidore of Seville, who knew, no doubt from Jerome’s Viri Illustres, that Hilary was the first Latin hymn writer.. If Hilary must have the credit of originality in this respect, the honour of turning his suggestion to account belongs to Ambrose, whose fame in more respects than one is built upon foundations laid by the other. And if but a scanty remnant of the verse of Ambrose, popular as it was, survives, we cannot be surprised that not a line remains which can safely be xlviiattributed to Hilary, though authorities who deserve respect have pronounced in favour of more than one of the five hymns which we must consider.
Hilary’s own opinion concerning the use of hymns can best be learnt from his Homilies of Psalms 64 and 65. In the former (§ 12) the Church’s delightful exercise of singing hymns at morning and evening is one of the chief tokens which she has of God’s mercy towards her. In the latter (§ 1) we are told that sacred song requires the accompaniment of instrumental harmonies; that the combination to this end of different forms of service and of art produces a result acceptable to God. The lifting of the voice to God in exultation, as an act of spiritual warfare against the devil and his hosts, is given as an example of the uses of hymnody (§ 4). It is a means of putting the enemy to flight; ‘Whoever he be that takes his post outside the Church, let him hear the voice of the people at their prayers, let him mark the multitudinous sound of our hymns, and in the performance of the divine Sacraments let him recognise the responses which our loyal confession makes. Every adversary must needs be affrighted, the devil routed, death conquered in the faith of the Resurrection, by such jubilant utterance of our exultant voice. The enemy will know that this gives pleasure to God and assurance to our hope, even this public and triumphant raising of our voice in song.’ Original composition, both of words and music, is evidently in Hilary’s mind; and we can see that he is rather recommending a useful novelty than describing an established practice. It is a remarkable coincidence that the five hymns which are called his are, in fact, a song of triumph over the devil, and a hymn in praise of the Resurrection, which are, so their editor thinks, actually alluded to in the Homily cited above; a confession of faith; and a morning hymn and one which has been taken for an evening hymn. These are exactly the subjects which correspond to Hilary’s description.
But, when we come to the examination of these
hymns in detail, the gravest doubts arise. The first three were
discovered in the same manuscript to which we owe the De
Mysteriis. They formed part of a small collection, which
cannot have numbered more than seven or eight hymns, of which these
three only have escaped, not without some mutilation. That which
stands first is the confession of faith, the matter of which contains
nothing that is inconsistent with Hilary’s time. But beyond
this, and the fact that the manuscript ascribes it to Hilary, there is
nothing to suggest his authorship. It is a dreary production in a
limping imitation of an Horatian metre; an involved argumentative
statement of Catholic doctrine, in which it would be difficult to say
whether verse or subject suffers the more from their unwanted
union. The sequence of thought is helped out by the mechanical
device of an alphabetical arrangement of the stanzas, but even this
assistance could not make it intelligible to an ordinary
congregation134134 Two of the simplest
stanzas are as follows:—
Extra quam caper potest
manet Filius in Patre,
rursus quem penes sit Pater
dignus, qui genitus est
Filius in Deum.
Felix quid potuit fide
res tantas penitus
ut incorporeo ex Deo
It is written in stanzas of six lines in the ms.; the metre is the second Asclepiad. Gamurrini, the discoverer, and Fechtrup (in Wetzer-Welte’s Encyclopædia) regard it as the work of Hilary, but the weight of opinion is against them.. And the want of literary skill in the author makes it impossible to suppose that Hilary is he; classical knowledge was still on too high a level for an educated man to perpetrate such solecisms.
In the same manuscript there follow, after an unfortunate gap, the two hymns to which it has been suggested that Hilary alludes in his Homily on Psalm 65, those which celebrate the praises of the Resurrection and the triumph over Satan. The former is by a woman’s hand, and the feminine forms of the language must have made it, one would think, unsuitable for congregational singing. There is no reason why the poem should not date from the fourth century; indeed, since it is written by a neophyte, that date is more probable than a later time, when adult converts to Christianity were more scarce. It has considerable merits; it is xlviiifervid in tone and free in movement, and has every appearance of being the expression of genuine feeling. It is, in fact, likely enough that, if it were written in Hilary’s day, he should have inserted it in a collection of sacred verse. Concerning its authorship the suggestion has been made135135 By Gamurrini in Studì e documenti, 1884, p. 83 f. that it was written by Florentia, a heathen maiden converted by Hilary near Seleucia, who followed him to Gaul, lived, died, and was buried by him in his diocese. The story of Florentia rests on no better authority than the worthless biography of Hilary, written by Fortunatus, who, moreover, says nothing about hymns composed by her. Neither proof nor disproof is possible: unless we regard the defective Latinity as evidence in favour of a Greek origin for the authoress. The third hymn, which celebrates the triumph of Christ over Satan, may or may not be the work of the same hand as the second. It bears much more resemblance to it than to the laborious and prosaic effusion which stands first. The manuscript which contains these three hymns distinctly assigns the first, and one or more which have perished, to Hilary:—‘Incipiunt hymni eiusdem.’ Whether a fresh title stood before the later hymns, which clearly belong to another, we cannot say; the collection is too short for this to be probable. It is obvious that, if we have in this manuscript the remains of a hymn-book for actual use, it was, like ours, a compilation; brief as it was, it may have been as large as the cumbrous shape of ancient volumes would allow to be cheaply multiplied and conveniently used. Many popular treatises, as for instance some by Tertullian and Cyprian, were quite as short. Who the compiler may have been must remain unknown. We must attach some importance to the evidence of the manuscript which has restored to us the De Mysteriis and the Pilgrimage of Silvia; and we may reasonably suppose that this collection was made in the time, and even with the sanction, of Hilary, though we cannot accept him as the author of any of the three hymns which remain.
The spurious letter to his imaginary daughter Abra was apparently written with the ingenious purpose of fathering upon Hilary the morning hymn, Lucis Largitor splendide. This is a hymn of considerable beauty, in the same metre as the genuine Ambrosian hymns. But there is this essential difference, that while in the latter the rules of classical versification as regards the length of syllables are scrupulously followed, in the former these rules are ignored, and rhythm takes the place of quantity. This is a sufficient proof that the hymn is of a later date than Ambrose, and, a fortiori, than Hilary. There remains the so-called evening hymn, which has been supposed to be the companion to the last136136 Printed in full by Mai, Patrum Nova Bibliotheca, p. 490. He suspends judgment, and will not say that it is unworthy of Hilary. The Benedictine editor, Coustant, gives a few stanzas as specimens, and summarily rejects it.. This, again, is alphabetical, and contains in twenty-three stanzas a confession of sin, an appeal to Christ and an assertion of orthodoxy. The rules of metre are neglected in favour of an uncouth attempt at rhythm. Latin appears to have been a dead language to the writer137137 The four quarters of the universe are ortus, occasus, aquilo, septentrio; one of these last must mean the south. This would point to some German land as the home of the author; in no country of Romance tongue could such an error have been perpetrated. Perire is used for perdere, but this is not unparalleled., who adorns his lines with little pieces of pagan mythology, and whose taste is indicated by his description of heretics as ‘barking Sabellius and grunting Simon.’ The hymn is probably the work of some bombastic monk, perhaps of the time of Charles the Great; unlike the other four, it cannot possibly date from Hilary’s generation.
Omitting certain fragments of treatises of which Hilary may, or may not, have been the author138138 In Mai’s Patrum Nova Bibliotheca, vol. i., is a short treatise on the Genealogies of Christ. The method of interpretation is the same as Hilary’s, but the language is not his; and the terms used of the Virgin in §§ 11, 12, are not as early as the fourth century. In the same volume is an exposition of the beginning of St. John’s Gospel in an anti-Arian sense. In spite of some difference of vocabulary, there is no strong reason why this should not be by Hilary; cf. especially, §§ 5–7. Mai also prints in the same volume a short fragment on the Paralytic (St. Matt. ix. 2), too brief for a judgment to be formed. In Pitra’s Spicilegium Solesmense, vol. i., is a brief discussion on the first chapters of Genesis, dealing chiefly with the Fall. It appears, like the Homilies on the Psalms, to be the report of some extemporary addresses, and is more likely than any of the preceding to be the work of Hilary. It is quite in his style, but the contents are unimportant. But we must remember that the scribes were rarely content to confess that they were ignorant of the name of an author whom they transcribed; and that, being as ill-furnished with scruples as with imagination, they assigned everything that came to hand to a few familiar names. Two further works ascribed to Hilary are obviously not his. Pitra, in the volume already cited, has printed considerable remains of a Commentary on the Pauline Epistles, which really belongs to Theodore of Mopsuestia; and a Commentary on the seven Canonical Epistles, recently published in the Spicilegium Casinense, vol. iii., is there attributed, with much reason, to his namesake of Arles., we now come to his attack upon Auxentius of Milan, and to the last of xlixhis complete works. Dionysius of Milan had been, as we saw, a sufferer in the same cause as Hilary. But he had been still more hardly treated; he had not only been exiled, but his place had been taken by Auxentius, an Eastern Arian of the school favoured by Constantius. Dionysius died in exile, and Auxentius remained in undisputed possession of the see. He must have been a man of considerable ability; perhaps, as we have mentioned, he was the creator of the so-called Ambrosian ritual, and certainly he was the leader of the Arian party in Italy and the further West. The very fact that Constantius and his advisers chose him for so great a post as the bishopric of Milan proves that they had confidence in him. He justified their trust, holding his own without apparent difficulty at Milan and working successfully in the cause of compromise at Ariminum and elsewhere. Athanasius mentions him often and bitterly as a leader of the heretics; and he must be ranked with Ursacius and Valens as one of the most unscrupulous of his party. While Constantius reigned Auxentius was, of course, safe from attack. But at the end of the year 364 Hilary thought that the opportunity was come. Since his last entry into the conflict Julian and his successor Jovian had died, and Valentinian had for some months been Emperor. He had just divided the Roman Empire with his brother Valens, himself choosing the Western half with Milan for his capital, while he gave Constantinople and the East to Valens. The latter was a man of small abilities, unworthy to reign, and a convinced Arian; Valentinian, with many faults, was a strong ruler, and favoured the cause of orthodoxy. But he was, before all else, a soldier and a statesman; his orthodoxy was, perhaps, a mere acquiescence in the predominant belief among his subjects, and it had, in any case, much less influence over his conduct than had Arianism over that of Valens. It must have seemed to Hilary and to Eusebius of Vercelli that there was danger to the Church in the possession by Auxentius of so commanding a position as that of bishop of Milan, with constant access to the Emperor’s ear; and especially now that the Emperor was new to his work and had no knowledge, perhaps no strong convictions, concerning the points at issue. As far as they could judge, their success or failure in displacing Auxentius would influence the fortunes of the Church for a generation at least. It would, therefore, be unjust to accuse Hilary as a mere busy-body. He interfered, it is true, outside his own province, but it was at a serious crisis; and his knowledge of the Western Church must have assured him that, if he did not act, the necessary protest would probably remain unmade.
Hilary, then, in company with his any Eusebius, hastened to Milan in order to influence the mind of Valentinian against Auxentius, and to waken the dormant orthodoxy of the Milanese Church. For there seems to have been little local opposition to the Arian bishop: no organised congregation of Catholics in the city rejected his communion. On the other hand, there was no militant Arianism; the worship conducted by Auxentius could excite no scruples, and in his teaching he would certainly avoid the points of difference. He and his school had no desire to persecute orthodoxy because it was orthodox. From their point of view, the Faith had been settled in such a way that their own position was unassailable, and all they wished was to live and to let live. And we must remember that the Council of Rimini, disgraceful as the manner was in which its decision had been reached, was still the rule of the Faith for the Western Church. Hilary and Eusebius had induced a multitude of bishops, amid the applause of their flocks, to recant; but private expressions of opinion, however numerous, could not erase the definitions of Rimini from lthe records of the Church. It was not till the year 369 that a Council at Rome expunged them. The first object of the allies was to excite opposition to the Arian, and in this they had some success. Auxentius, in his petition to the Emperor, which we possess, asserts that they stirred up certain of the laity, who had been in communion neither with himself nor with his predecessors, to call him a heretic. The immediate predecessor of Auxentius was the Catholic Dionysius, and we cannot suppose that this is a fair description of Hilary’s followers. But it is probable that the malcontents were not numerous, for none but enthusiasts would venture into apparent schism on account of a heresy which was certainly not conspicuous. How long Hilary was allowed to continue his efforts is unknown. Valentinian reached Milan in the November of 364, and left it in the Autumn of the following year; and before his departure his decision had frustrated Hilary’s purpose. We only know that, as soon as the matter grew serious, Auxentius appealed to the Emperor. There was no point more important in the eyes of the government than unity within the local Churches, and Auxentius, being formally in the right, must have made his appeal with much confidence. His success was immediate. The Emperor issued what Hilary calls a ’grievous edict139139 Contra Auxentium, §7.,’ the terms of which Hilary does not mention. He only says that under the pretext, and with the desire, of unity, Valentinian threw the faithful Church of Milan into confusion. In other words, he forbade Hilary to agitate for a separation of the people from their bishop.
But Hilary, silenced in the city, exerted himself at court. With urgent importunity, he tells us, he pressed his charges against Auxentius, and induced the Emperor to appoint a commission to consider them. In due time this commission met. It consisted of two lay officials, with ‘some ten’ bishops as assessors140140 It is clear from Hilary’s account (Contra Auxentium, § 7) that the decision lay with the laymen. Auxentius, in his account of the matter, does not even mention the bishops.. Hilary and Eusebius were present, as well as the accused. Auxentius pleaded his own cause, beginning with the unfortunate attack upon his adversaries that they had been deposed by Council, and therefore had no locus standi as accusers of a bishop. This was untrue; Hilary, we know, had been banished, but his see had never been declared vacant, nor, in all probability, had that of Eusebius. They were not intruders, like Auxentius, though even he had gained some legality for his position from the death of Dionysius in exile. The failure of this plea was so complete that Hilary, in his account of the matter, declares that it is not worth his while to repeat his defence. Next came the serious business of the commission. This was not the theological enquiry after truth, but the legal question whether, in fact, the teaching of Auxentius was in conformity with recognised standards. Hilary had asserted that his creed differed from that of the Emperor and of all other Christians, and had asserted it in very unsparing language. He now maintained his allegation, and, in doing so, gave Auxentius a double advantage. For he diverged into the general question of theology, while Auxentius stuck to the letter of the decisions of Rimini; and the words of Hilary had been such that he could claim to be a sufferer from calumny. Hilary’s account of the doctrinal discussion is that he forced the reluctant Auxentius by his questions to the very edge of a denial of the Faith; that Auxentius escaped from this difficulty by a complete surrender, to which Hilary pinned him down by making him sign an orthodox confession, in terms to which he had several times agreed during the course of the debate; that Hilary remitted this confession through the Quæstor, the lay president of the commission, to the Emperor. This document, which Hilary says that he appended to his explanatory letter, is unfortunately lost. The brief account of the matter which Auxentius gives is not inconsistent with Hilary’s. He tells us that he began by protesting that he had never known or seen Arius, and did not even know what his lidoctrine was; he proceeded to declare that he still believed and preached the truths which he had been taught in his infancy and of which he had satisfied himself by study of Scripture; and he gives a summary of the statement of faith which he made before the commission. But he says not a word about the passage of arms between Hilary and himself, of his defeat, and of the enforced signature of a confession which contradicted his previous assertions.
Hilary’s account of the proceedings must certainly be accepted. But, though his moral and dialectical victory was complete, it is obvious that he had gained no advantage for his cause. He had taunted Auxentius as an adherent of Arius. Auxentius had an immediate reply, which put his opponent in the wrong. We cannot doubt that he spoke the truth, when he said that he had never known Arius; and it certainly was the case, that in the early years of the fourth century, inadequate statements of the doctrine of the Trinity were widely prevalent and passed without dispute. It was also true that the dominant faction at the court of Constantius, of which Auxentius had been a leader, had in the most effectual way disclaimed complicity with Arianism by ejecting its honest professors from their sees and by joining with their lips in the universal condemnation of the founder of that heresy. But if this was their shame, it was also, in such circumstances as those of Auxentius, their protection. And Auxentius held one of the greatest positions in the church, and even in the state, now that Milan was to be, so it seemed, the capital of the West. The spirit of the government at that time was one of almost Chinese reverence for official rank; and it must have seemed an outrage that the irresponsible bishop of a city, mean in comparison with Milan, should assail Auxentius in such terms as Hilary had used. Even though he had admitted, instead of repudiating, the affinity with Arius, there would have been an impropriety in the use of that familiar weapon, the labelling of a party with the name of its most discredited and unpopular member. We may be sure that Auxentius, a man of the world, would derive all possible advantage from this excessive vehemence of his adversary. In the debate itself, where Hilary would have the advantage not only of a sound cause, but of greater earnestness, we cannot be surprised that he won the victory. Auxentius was probably indifferent at heart; Hilary had devoted his life and all his talents to the cause, but such a victory could have no results, beyond lowering Auxentius in public esteem and self-respect. It does not appear from his words or from those of Hilary, that the actual creed of Rimini was imported into the dispute. It was on it that Auxentius relied; if he did not expressly contradict its terms, the debate became a mere discussion concerning abstract truth. The legal standard of doctrine was no more affected by his unwilling concession than it had been a few years before by the numerous repudiations, prompted by Hilary and Eusebius, of the vote given at Rimini. The confession which Hilary annexed in triumph to his narrative was the mere incidental expression of a private opinion, which Auxentius, in his further plea, could afford to leave unnoticed.
The commissioners no doubt made their report privately to the Emperor. We do not know its tenour, but from the sequel we may be sure that they gave it as their opinion that Auxentius was the lawful bishop of Milan. Some time passed before Valentinian spoke. Whether Hilary took any further steps to influence his decision is unknown; but we possess a memorial addressed ‘to the most blessed and glorious Emperors Valentinian and Valens’ by Auxentius. The two brothers were, by mutual arrangement, each sovereign within his own dominion, but they ruled as colleagues, not as rivals; and Auxentius must have taken courage from the thought that it would seem unnatural and impolitic for the elder to seize this first opportunity of proclaiming his dissent from the cherished convictions of the younger, by degrading one of the very school which his brother delighted to honour. For what had been proposed was not the silent filling of a vacant place, but the public ejection of a bishop whose liistation was not much less prominent than that of Athanasius himself, and his ejection on purely theological grounds. Constantius himself had rarely been so bold; his acts of oppression, as in Hilary’s case, were usually cloaked by some allegation of misconduct on the victim’s part. But Auxentius had more than the character of Valens and political considerations on which to rely. In the forefront of his defence he put the Council of Rimini. This attack by Hilary and his friends was, according to him, the attempt of a handful of men to break up the unity attained by the labours of that great assembly of six hundred bishops141141 This was a gross exaggeration. They cannot have been more than 400, and probably were less and we must remember that the Homoean decision was only obtained by fraud, as Auxentius well knew.. He declared his firm assent to all its decisions; every heresy that it had condemned he condemned. He sent with his address a copy of the Acts of the Council, and begged the Emperor to have them read to him. Its language would convince him that Hilary and Eusebius, bishops long deposed, were merely plotting universal schism. This, with his own account of the proceedings before the commission and a short statement of his belief, forms his appeal to the Emperor. It was composed with great skill, and was quite unanswerable. His actual possession of the see, the circumstances of the time, the very doctrine of the Church—for only a Council could undo what a Council had done—rendered his position unassailable. And if he was in the right, Hilary and his colleague were in the wrong. Nothing but success could have saved them from the humiliation to which they were now subjected, of being expelled from Milan and bidden to return to their homes, while the Emperor publicly recognised Auxentius by receiving the Communion at his hands. Yet morally they had been in the right throughout. The strong legal position of Auxentius and the canons of that imposing Council of six hundred bishops behind which he screened himself had been obtained by deliberate fraud and oppression. He and his creed could not have, and did not deserve to have, any stability. Yet Valentinian was probably in the right, even in the interests of truth, in refusing to make a martyr of Auxentius. There would have been reprisals in the East, where the Catholic cause had far more to lose than had Arianism in the West; and general considerations of equity and policy must have inclined him to allow the Arian to pass the remainder of his days in peace. But we cannot wonder that Hilary failed to appreciate such reasons. He had thrown himself with all his heart into the attack, and risked in it his public credit as bishop and confessor and first of Western theologians. Hence his published account of the transaction is tinged with a pardonable shade of personal resentment. It was, indeed, necessary that he should issue a statement. The assault and the repulse were rendered conspicuous by time and place, and by the eminence of the persons engaged; and it was Hilary’s duty to see that the defeat which he had incurred brought no injury upon his cause. He therefore addressed a public letter ‘to the beloved brethren who abide in the Faith of the fathers and repudiate the Arian heresy, the bishops and all their flocks.’ He begins by speaking of the blessings of peace, which the Christians of that day could neither enjoy nor promote, beset as they were by the forerunners of Antichrist, who boasted of the peace, in other words of the harmonious concurrence in blasphemy, which they had brought about. They bear themselves not as bishops of Christ but as priests of Antichrist. This is not random abuse (§ 2), but sober recognition of the fact, stated by St. John, that there are many Antichrists. For these men assume the cloak of piety, and pretend to preach the Gospel, with the one object of inducing others to deny Christ. It was (§ 3) the misery and folly of the day that men endeavoured to promote the cause of God by human means and the favour of the world. Hilary asks bishops, who believe in their office, whether the Apostles had secular support when by their preaching they converted the greater part of mankind. They were not adorned with palace dignities; scourged and fettered, they sang their hymns. It was in obedience to no royal edict that Paul gathered a Church for Christ; liiihe was exposed to public view in the theatre. Nero and Vespasian and Decius were no patrons of the Church; it was through their hatred that the truth had thriven. The Apostles laboured with their hands and worshipped in garrets and secret places, and in defiance of senate or monarch visited, it might be said, every village and every tribe. Yet it was these rebels who had the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; the more they were forbidden, the more they preached, and the power of God was made manifest. But now (§ 4) the Faith finds favour with men.
The Church seeks for secular support, and in so doing insults Christ by the implication that his support is insufficient. She in her turn holds out the threat of exile and prison. It was her endurance of these that drew men to her; now she imposes her faith by violence. She craves for favours at the hands of her communicants; once it was her consecration that she braved the threatenings of persecutors. Bishops in exile spread the Faith; now it is she that exiles bishops. She boasts that the world loves her; the world’s hatred was the evidence that she was Christ’s. The ruin is obvious which has fallen upon the Church. The time of Antichrist, disguised as an angel of light, has come. The true Christ is hidden from almost every mind and heart. Antichrist is now obscuring the truth that he may assert falsehood hereafter. Hence the conflicting opinions of the time, the doctrine of Arius and of his heirs, Valens, Ursacius, Auxentius and their fellows. Their preaching of novelties concerning Christ is the work of Antichrist, who is using them to introduce his own worship. This is proved (§ 6) by a statement of their minimising and prevaricating doctrine, which has, however, made no impression upon the guileless and well-meaning laity. Then (§§ 7–9) comes Hilary’s account of his proceedings at Milan, strongly coloured by the intensity of his feelings. The Emperor’s first refusal to interfere with Auxentius is a ‘command that the Church of the Milanese, which confesses that Christ is true God, of one divinity and substance with the Father, should be thrown into confusion under the pretext, and with the desire, of unity.’ The canons of Rimini are described as those of the Thracian Nicæa; Auxentius’ protest that he had never known Arius is met by the assertion that he had been ordained to the presbyterate in an Arian Church under George of Alexandria. Hilary refuses to discuss the Council of Rimini; it had been universally and righteously repudiated. His ejection from Milan, in spite of his protests that Auxentius was a liar and a renegade, is a revelation of the mystery of ungodliness. For Auxentius (§§ 10, 11) had spoken with two contrary voices; the one that of the confession which Hilary had driven him to sign, the other that of Rimini. His skill in words could deceive even the elect, but he had been clearly exposed. Finally (§ 12) Hilary regrets that he cannot state the case to each bishop and Church in person. He begs them to make the best of his letter; he dares not make it fully intelligible by circulating with it the Arian blasphemies which he had assailed. He bids them beware of Antichrist, and warns against love and reverence for the material structure of their churches, wherein Antichrist will one day have his seat. Mountains and woods and dens of beasts and prison and morasses are the places of safety; in them some of the Prophets had lived, and some had died. He bids them shun Auxentius as an angel of Satan, an enemy of Christ, a deceiver and a blasphemer. ‘Let him assemble against me what synods he will, let him proclaim me, as he has often done already, a heretic by public advertisement, let him direct, at his will, the wrath of the mighty against me; yet, being an Arian, he shall be nothing less than a devil in my eyes. Never will I desire peace except with them who, following the doctrine of our fathers at Nicæa, shall make the Arians anathema and proclaim the true divinity of Christ.’
These are the concluding words of Hilary’s last public utterance. We see him again giving an unreserved adhesion, in word as well as in heart, to the Nicene confession. It was the course dictated by policy as well as by conviction. His cautious language in earlier days had done good service to the Church in the East, and had made it easier for those who had compromised themselves at Rimini to reconcile themselves with him and with the truth for livwhich he stood. But by this time all whom he could wish to win had given in their adhesion; Auxentius and the few who held with him, if such there were, were irreconcilable. They took their stand upon the Council of Rimini, and their opponents found in the doctrine of Nicæa the clear and uncompromising challenge which was necessary for effective warfare. But if Hilary’s doctrinal position is definite, his theory of the relations of church and State, if indeed his indignation allowed him to think of them, is obscure. An orthodox Emperor was upholding an Arian, and Hilary, while giving Valentinian credit for personal good faith, is as eager as in the worst days of Constantius for a severance. We must, however, remember that this manifesto, though it is the expression of a settled policy in the matter of doctrine, is in other respects the unguarded outpouring of an injured feeling. And here again we find the old perplexity of the ‘inward evil.’ Auxentius is represented as in the church and outside it at the same time. He is an Antichrist, a devil, all that is evil; but Hilary is threatened and it is the Church that threatens, submission to an Arian is enforced and it is the church which enforces it142142 §4.. And if Auxentius had adhered to the confession which Hilary had induced him to sign, all objection to his episcopate would apparently have ceased. The time had not come, if it ever can come, for the solution of such problems. Meantime Hilary did his best, so far as words could do it, to brush aside the sophistries behind which Auxentius was defending himself. The doctrine of Rimini is named that of Nicæa, in Thrace, where the discreditable and insignificant assembly met in which its terms were settled; the Church of Alexandria under the intruder George is frankly called Arian. It was an appeal to the future as well as an apology for himself. But certainly it could not move Valentinian, nor can Hilary have expected that it should. And, after all, Valentinian’s action was harmless, at least. By Hilary’s own confession, Auxentius had no influence for evil over his flock, and these proceedings must have warned him, if he needed the warning, that abstinence from aggressive Arianism was necessary if he would end his days in peace. The Emperor’s policy remained unchanged. At the Roman Council of the year 369 the Western bishops formally annulled the proceedings of Rimini, and so deprived Auxentius of his legal position. At the same time, as the logical consequence, they condemned him to deposition, but Valentinian refused to give effect to their sentence, and Auxentius remained bishop of Milan till his death in the year 374. He had outlived Hilary and Eusebius, and also Athanasius, the promoter of the last attack upon him; he had also outlived whatever Arianism there had been in Milan. His successor, St. Ambrose, had the enthusiastic support of his people in his conflicts with Arian princes. The Church could have gained little by Hilary’s success, and yet we cannot be sure that, in a broad sense, he failed. So resolute a bearing must have effectually strengthened the convictions of Valentinian and the fears of Auxentius.
There remains one work of Hilary to be considered. This was a history of the Arian controversy in such of its aspects as had fallen under his own observation. We know from Jerome’s biography of Hilary that he wrote a book against Valens and Ursacius, containing an account of the Councils of Rimini and Seleucia. They had been his adversaries throughout his career, and had held their own against him. To them, at least as much as to Constantius, the overthrow of his Asiatic friends was due, and to them he owed the favour, which must have galled him, of permission to return to his diocese. Auxentius was one of their allies, and the failure of Hilary’s attack upon him made it clear that these men too, as subjects of Valentinian, were safe from merited deposition. Their worldly success was manifest; it was a natural and righteous task which Hilary undertook when he exposed their true character. It was clear that while Valens and Valentinian lived—and they were in early middle life—there would be an armed peace within the Western Church; that the overthrow of bishop by bishop in theological strife would be lvforbidden. The pen was the only weapon left to Hilary, and he used it to give an account of events from the time of that Council of Arles, in the year 353, which was the beginning for Gaul of the Arian conflict. He followed its course, with especial reference to Ursacius and Valens, until the year 367, or at least the end of 366; the latest incident recorded in the fragments which we possess must have happened within a few months of his death. The work was less a history than a collection of documents strung together by an explanatory narrative. It is evident that it was not undertaken as a literary effort; its aim is not the information of future generations, but the solemn indictment at the bar of public opinion of living offenders. It must have been, when complete, a singularly businesslike production, with no graces of style to render it attractive and no generalisations to illuminate its pages. Had the whole been preserved, we should have had a complete record of Hilary’s life; as it is, we have thirteen valuable fragments143143 There are fifteen in the collection, but the second and third which are as long as the rest together, and are obviously extracts from the same work, are not by Hilary. He expressly says (Fragm. i. § 6) that he will commence with the council of Arles and the exile of Paulinus. These documents narrate at great length events which began six years earlier, and with which Hilary and his province had no direct concern. This proves that the fragments are not a portion of the Liber adversus Ursacium et Valentem. Internal evidence proves not less clearly that they cannot be excerpts from some other work of Hilary. In Fragm. ii. § 21 we are told that apparently in the year 349, Athanasius excommunicated Marcellus of Ancyra. It is of course, notorious that he never did so; the mistake is one which Hilary could not possibly have made. None the less, these fragments are both in themselves and in the documents which they embody, one of our most important authorities for the transactions they narrate, and are indisputably contemporary and authentic. Nor is there any reasonable doubt as to the genuineness of the thirteen. Those of them which reveal the inconstancy of Liberius have been assailed by some Roman Catholic writers, though they are accepted by others. The same suspicion has extended to others among the fragments, because they are found in company with these revelations concerning Liberius. But the doubts have been suggested by the wish to disbelieve., to which we owe a considerable part of our general knowledge of the time, though they tell us comparatively little of his own career. ‘The commencement of the work has happily survived, and from it we learn the spirit in which he wrote. He begins (Fragment i. §§ 1, 2) with an exposition of St. Paul’s doctrine of faith, hope, and love. He testifies, with the Apostle, that the last is the greatest. The inseparable bond, of which he is conscious, of God’s love for him and his for God, has detached him from worldly interests. He, like others (§ 3), might have enjoyed ease and prosperity and imperial friendship, and have been, as they were, a bishop only in name and a burden upon the Church. But the condition imposed was that of tampering with Gospel truths, wilful blindness to oppression and the condonation of tyranny. Public opinion, ill-informed and unused to theological subtleties, would not have observed the change. But it would have been a cowardly declension from the love of Christ to which he could not stoop. He feels (§ 4) the difficulty of the task he undertakes. The devil and the heretics had done their worst, multitudes had been terrified into denial of their convictions. The story was complicated by the ingenuity in evil of the plotters, and evidence was difficult to obtain. The scene of intrigue could not be clearly delineated, crowded as it was with the busy figures of bishops and officers, putting every engine into motion against men of apostolic mind. The energy with which they propagated slander was the measure of its falsehood. They had implanted in the public mind the belief that the exiled bishops had suffered merely for refusing to condemn Athanasius; that they were inspired by obstinacy, not by principle. Out of reverence for the Emperor, whose throne is from God (§ 5), Hilary will not comment upon his usurped jurisdiction over a bishop, nor on the manner in which it was exercised; nor yet on the injustice whereby bishops were forced to pass sentence upon the accused in his absence. In this volume he will give the true causes of trouble, in comparison of which such tyranny, grievous though it be, is of small account. Once before—this, no doubt, was at Béziers—he had spoken his mind upon the matter. But that was a hasty and unprepared utterance, delivered to an audience as eager to silence him as he was to speak. He will, therefore (§ 6), give a full and consecutive narrative of events from the council of Arles onwards, with such an account of the question there debated as will lvishew the true merits of Paulinus, and make it clear that nothing less than the Faith was at stake. He ends his introduction (§ 7) by warning the reader that this is a work which needs to be seriously studied. The multitude of letters and of synods which he must adduce will merely confuse and disgust him, if he do not bear in mind the dates and the persons, and the exact sense in which terms are used. Finally, he reminds him of the greatness of the subject. This is the knowledge of God, the hope of eternity; it is the duty of a Christian to acquire such knowledge as shall enable him to form and to maintain his own conclusions. The excerpts from the work have evidently been made by some one who was interested in Italy and Illyricum rather than in Gaul, and thought that the documents were more important than the narrative. Hence Hilary’s character is as little illustrated as the events of his life. Nor can the date of the work be precisely fixed. It is clear that he had already taken up his final attitude of uncompromising adherence to the Nicene Symbol; that is to say, he began to write after all the waverers had been reclaimed from contact with Arianism. He must, therefore, have written the book in his latest years; and it is manifest that after he had brought the narrative down to the time of his return from exile, he continued to add to it from time to time even till the end of his life. For the last incident recorded in the Fragments, the secession from the party of Valens and Ursacius of an old and important ally, Germinius of Sirmium, must have come to his knowledge very shortly before his death. He had had little success in his warfare with error; if he and his friends had held their own, they had not succeeded either in synod or at court in overthrowing their enemies; and it is pleasant to think that this gleam of comfort came to brighten the last days of Hilary144144 This correspondence which Hilary has preserved (Fragm. xiii.–xv.) is interesting as shewing how difficult it must have been for the laity to determine who was, and who was not, a heretic, when all parties used the same Scriptural terms in commendation of themselves and condemnation of their opponents. It begins with a public letter in which Germinius makes a declaration of faith in Homoeousion terms, without any mention of the reasons which had induced him to depart from the Homoean position. This is followed by a reproachful letter, also intended for publicity, from Valens, Ursacius, and others. They had refused to attend to the rumour of his defection; but now are compelled, by his own published letter, to ask the plain question, whether or not he adheres to ‘the Catholic Faith set forth and confirmed by the Holy Council at Rimini.’ If he had added to the Homoean formula, which was that the Son is ‘like the Father,’ the words ‘in substance’ or ‘in all things,’ he had fallen into the justly condemned heresy of Basil of Ancyra. They demand an explicit statement that he never had said, and never would say, anything of the kind; and warn him that he is gravely suspected, complaints of his teaching having been made by certain of his clergy to neighbouring bishops, which they trust will be proved groundless. Germinius made no direct reply to this letter, but addressed a manifesto to a number of more sympathetic bishops, containing the scriptural proofs of the divinity of Christ and recalling the fact that the Homoean leaders, before their own victory, had acquiesced in the Homoeousian confession. Any teaching to the contrary is the work, not of God, but of the spirit of this world, and he entreats those whom he addresses to circulate his letter as widely as possible, lest any should fall through ignorance into the snares of the devil. Germinius was assured of safety in writing thus. Valentinian’s support of Auxentius had proved that bishops might hold what opinions they would on the great question provided they were not avowed Arians. Germinius had been a leader of the Homoean party, and it is at least possible that his change of front was due to his knowledge that the Emperor, though he would not eject Homoeans, had no sympathy with them and would allow them no influence. In fact, the smaller the share of conscience, the greater the historical interest of Germinius’ action as shewing the decline of Homoean influence in the West.. The news must have reached Gaul early in the year 367, and no subsequent event of importance can have come to his knowledge.
But though we have reached the term of Hilary’s life, there remains one topic on which something must be said, his relation to St. Martin of Tours. Martin, born in Pannonia, the country of Valens and Ursacius, but converted from paganism under Catholic influences, was attracted by Hilary, already a bishop, and spent some years in his society before the outbreak of the Arian strife in Gaul. Hilary, we are told, wished to ordain him a priest, but at his urgent wish refrained, and admitted him instead to the humble rank of an exorcist. At an uncertain date, which cannot have long preceded Hilary’s exile, he felt himself moved to return to his native province in order to convert his parents, who were still pagans. He succeeded in the case of his mother and of many of his countrymen. But he was soon compelled to abandon his labours, for he had, as a true disciple of Hilary, regarded it as his duty to oppose the Arianism dominant in lviithe province. Opposition to the bishops on the part of a man holding so low a station in the Church was a civil as well as an ecclesiastical offence, and Martin can have expected no other treatment than that which he received, of scourging and expulsion from the province. Hilary was by this time in exile, and Martin turned to Milan, where the heresy of the intruder Auxentius called forth his protests, which were silenced by another expulsion. He next retired to a small island off the Italian coast, where he lived in seclusion till he heard of Hilary’s return. He hastened to Rome, so Fortunatus tells us, to meet his friend, but missed him on the way; and followed him at once to Poitiers. There Hilary gave him a site near the city, on which he founded the first monastery in that region, over which he presided for the rest of Hilary’s life and for four years after his death. In the year 371 he was consecrated bishop of Tours, and so continued till his death twenty-five years later. It is clear that Martin was never able to exert any influence over the mind or action of Hilary, whose interests were in an intellectual sphere above his reach. But the courage and tenacity with which Martin held and preached the Faith was certainly inspired to some considerable extent by admiration of Hilary and confidence in his teaching. And the joy which Hilary expresses, as we have seen, in his later Homilies on the Psalms over the rapid spread of Christianity in Gaul, was no doubt occasioned by the earlier triumphs of Martin among the peasantry. The two men were formed each to be the complement of the other. It was the work of Hilary to prove with cogent clearness to educated Christians, that reason as well as piety dictated an acceptance of the Catholic Faith; the mission of Martin was to those who were neither educated nor Christian, and his success in bringing the Faith home to the lives and consciences of the pagan masses marks him out as one of the greatest among the preachers of the Gospel. Both of them actively opposed Arianism, and both suffered in the conflict. But the confessorship of neither had any perceptible share in promoting the final victory of truth. Their true glory is that they were fellow-labourers equally successful in widely separate parts of the same field; and Hilary is entitled, beyond the honour due to his own achievements, to a share in that of St. Martin, whose merits he discovered and fostered.
We have now reached the end of Hilary’s life. Sulpicius Severus145145 Chron. ii. 45. tells us that he died in the sixth year from his return. He had probably reached Poitiers early in the year 361; we have seen that the latest event recorded in the fragments of his history must have come to his knowledge early in 367. There is no reason to doubt that this was the conclusion of the history, and no consideration suggests that Sulpicius was wrong in his date. We may therefore assign the death of Hilary, with considerable confidence, to the year 367, and probably to its middle portion. Of the circumstances of his death nothing is recorded. This is one of the many signs that his contemporaries did not value him at his true worth. To them he must have been the busy and somewhat unsuccessful man of affairs; their successors in the next generation turned away from him and his works to the more attractive writings and more commanding characters of Ambrose and Augustine. Yet certainly no firmer purpose or more convinced faith, perhaps no keener intellect has devoted itself to the defence and elucidation of truth than that of Hilary: and it may be that Christian thinkers in the future will find an inspiration of new and fruitful thoughts in his writings.
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