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Chapter XVIII.

The errors of the Arians are mentioned in the Nicene Definition of the Faith, to prevent their deceiving anybody. These errors are recited, together with the anathema pronounced against them, which is said to have been not only pronounced at Nicæa, but also twice renewed at Ariminum.

118. Christ, therefore, is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten of the Father, not made; of one substance with the Father.”

119. So, indeed, following the guidance of the Scriptures, our fathers declared, holding, moreover, that impious doctrines should be included in the record of their decrees, in order that the unbelief of Arius should discover itself, and not, as it were, mask itself with dye or face-paint.18711871    Fucus, the word used by St. Ambrose, denoted face-paint in general, but it seems to have also had the especial meaning of a red pigment, or rouge for the cheeks. The custom of face-painting was known of old in the East (2 Kings ix. 30; Ezek. xxiii. 40), whence, most probably, it passed into Greece—it was known, in Ionia at least, when the Odyssey was written (say 900 b.c.)—and thence to Rome. See Dict. Antiq. art. “Fucus.” For they give a false colour to their thoughts who dare not unfold them openly. After the manner of the censor’s rolls, then, the Arian heresy is not discovered by name,18721872    An allusion to the practice of the nota censoria. The censors, under the Republic, were vested with the power of appointing properly qualified citizens to vacancies in the Senate, and it was their duty to make up the roll of senators for each lustrum, or period of five years. Exclusion from the Senate was simply effected by omitting a senator’s name from the new list, and senators so “unseated” were called præteriti, since their names had been passed over and not read out with the rest. The decrees of the Fathers of the Church laid down, as it were, the qualification for membership: all who came under the description established by these decrees were regarded as admitted—whilst those who, like the Arians, did not were tacitly excluded. Or we might say that the Anathema, appended to the Nicene symbol, excluded the Arians, not by name, but by description. In either way, the exclusion was tacit, like the censorial, in so far as no names were mentioned. In the case of exclusion from the Senate by the censors, it was understood that the reason for exclusion was grave immorality. but marked out by the condemnation pronounced, in order that he who is curious and eager to hear it should be preserved from falling by knowing that it is condemned already, before he hears, it set forth to the end that he should believe.

120. “Those,” runs the decree, “who say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, and that before He was born He was not, and who say that he was made out of nothing, or is of another substance or οὐσια,18731873    St. Ambrose has here rendered into Latin the anathema appended to the original Nicene Creed of 325 a.d. Notice “substance or οὐσία.” The original is substantia vel οὐσίᾳ. The closer Greek equivalent of substantia is ὑπόστασις (found in Heb. i. 3, and translated “person” in A.V.), whilst the Latin for οὐσία is essentia (“essence”). St. Ambrose appears to regard οὐσία as a proper equivalent of substantia, whence we may perhaps infer that he also identified οὐσία and ὑπόστασις in meaning. But some distinguished the two, using the term οὐσία in the sense of “essence” or “substance” (i.e., the Godhead) and ὑπόστασις in that of “person”—so that, according to them, there would be three “hypostases” in the unity of the Godhead. or that He is capable of changing, or that with Him is any shadow of turning,—them the Catholic and Apostolic Church declares accursed.”

121. Your sacred Majesty has agreed that they who utter such doctrines are rightly condemned. It was of no determination by man, of no human counsel, that three hundred and eighteen bishops met, as I showed above more at length,18741874    Cf. §§ 3 and 5. in Council, but that in their number the Lord Jesus might prove, by the sign of His Name and Passion, that He was in the midst, where His own were gathered together.18751875    S. Matt. xviii. 20. In the number of three hundred was the sign of His Cross, in that 221of eighteen was the sign of the Name Jesus.

122. This also was the teaching of the First Confession in the Council of Ariminum, and of the Second Correction, after that Council. Of the Confession, the letter sent to the Emperor Constantine beareth witness, and the Council that followed declares the Correction.18761876    The Council of Ariminum (Rimini on the Adriatic coast of Italy) was held in 359 a.d., Constantius being Emperor. “The Bishops who attended the Council of Ariminum,” observes Hurter, “to the number of more than 400, informed the Emperor that they had resolved to allow no change in what had been determined upon at Nicæa. This is the ‘first confession.’ That great confession, however, was not maintained for long. Partly overawed by the Emperor, partly deceived by the Arians, the Bishops agreed to strike out the words ‘substance’ and ‘consubstantial.’ After this came the ‘correction,’ which Ambrose calls the ‘second,’ being made either by those Bishops who, recognizing their error, withdrew the decrees of the Council held at Ariminum, or by the Councils that followed—namely, the Councils of Alexandria (presided over by Athanasius), of Paris (362 a.d.), and of Rome (held under Pope Damasus, in a.d. 369).”


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