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Ephesus after the fall of Jerusalem, and mingled with the cosmopolitan crowd of philosophers who discussed conflicting systems as they sauntered in the Xystus, whither men came to barter merchandise or exchange ideas, this Galilean peasant, chosen by his Lord and Master for his simplicity and ignorance, made the startling discovery that the Hebrew Messiah is the Logos of Plato! and, accepting the revelation as divine, hastened to compose the evangelical fiction which depicts a Being, neither true to Humanity nor to Divinity. It is said that John wrote his Gospel in extreme old age; was his work, therefore, the product of senility, and do we accept an octogenarian version of phantasmal Divinity, in preference to the simple story of the Son of Man recorded in the pages of Matthew ?
If, therefore, we see in John the author of the fourth Gospel, we also recognise in him the Heresiarch who corrupted the original teaching of Jesus with the philosophic Gnosticism more fully developed in the system of Valentinus, and who set the pernicious example of inspired innovations, which eventually transformed Christianity into the magical mirror, in which successive generations of imaginary followers of Jesus of Nazareth have seen the reflection of their own ideas, and imposed them on Humanity as divine.
We have thus seen that the deification of Jesus of Nazareth was the imaginative creation of credulous theologians, who, under the control of an illusory superstition, gave free scope to their inventive genius in constructing fanciful theories of relationship between the Son of Man and the Platonic phantoms of Alexan
drine Gnosticism. And it, therefore, remains for all who have formed their ideal of Jesus through the Logia of Matthew, to acquit him of having ever claimed to be more than man, inspired by the Spirit of his father in heaven.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE TRINITY.
Having thus traced the progressive deification of Jesus to the middle of the third century, our readers may reasonably inquire where, during this long lapse of time, was that mysterious Trinity which we have all been taught to reverence as an apostolic institution? We answer, waiting the evolution of the Third Person in a sufficiently definite form to complete the number of triune Divinity.
The minds of theologians had been previously too deeply absorbed in discussing the attributes of the Logos to give much attention to the Holy Spirit, whose personality therefore remained an open question long after the deification of Jesus.
Justin Martyr speaks of worshipping 'God and the Son who proceeded from Him, the host of the other good Angels who accompany and resemble him, and the prophetic spirit.'1
Irenæus says: 'I have also shown that the Word, namely, the Son, was always with the Father, and that Wisdom also, which is the Spirit, was present with Him before all creation.'
Tertullian, who speaks of Unitarian Christians as simpletons because they could not understand his
11 Apol. vi.
Trinitarian economy, discloses his own confusion of thought by confounding the Spirit with the Logos. Referring to the invisible Being who overshadowed the Virgin Mary, he says : ‘It is that Spirit which we call the Word, for the Spirit is the substance of the Word, and the Word the operation of the Spirit, and these two
Origen informs us that the Holy Spirit is associated in honour and dignity with the Father aud the Son; but, as it is doubtful whether he is born or innate, or is a Son of God, all these questions require careful investigation through the Scriptures.'?
It is, therefore, obvious that a consubstantial Trinity had no existence in the third century, and from this period until the Council of Nicæa (A.D. 325), the relationship of Father and Son remained the absorbing topic of theological controversy.
At the close of the third century, the theory of the Divinity of Jesus had made important progress among communities already familiar with the system of Plato. But whilst Piety rejoiced in the exaltation of Jesus, Reason still lingered over acceptance of two or three persons in one God; and conflicting theologians, in search of some compromise with the impossible, drifted into a confused theosophy, depicting Jesus in varying forms of finite and infinite Divinity.
With the fourth century, the time had come for defining what was really meant by the Divinity of the Son of Man. Arius, the celebrated presbyter of Alexandria, declared the Son as a created being, to be inferior to, and neither co-eternal nor consubstantial with Ayainst Praxcan, xxvi.
* De Principiis, Preface.
the Father, for if he possessed the infinite attributes of the Supreme Deity, there would be two Gods instead of one God. This thesis confirms the theology of the Ante-Nicene Fathers; but further progress had been made in the exaltation of the Logos, and Arius, behind the spirit of his age, was condemned, deposed, and excommunicated by his Bishop, whilst the famous theologian, Athanasius, came to the front, not as the apostle of Trinitarianism, in its modern sense, but as the zealous advocate of a modified form of Ditheism, which assigned to the Logos a higher grade in Divinity than was admissible in the creed of Arius.
Tertullian had affirmed that the Logos was possessed of substance, not because he knew anything on the subject, but because he had adopted the Valentinian theory of emanations, and thence inferred that that which proceeded from the Father must, of necessity, be substantial. Athanasius made still further progress in this logical theosophy by inferring that procession from the Father involves identity of substance (Homoousia), and consequent equality and co-eternity of the Father and the Son, who combine, through community of essence, duality of person with unity of Divinity ; and on this Gnostic fiction rests the imaginative Infinity of the Hebrew Messiah.
At this momentous crisis in the history of Christianity, the Emperor Constantine became a convert to the faith, and learned with surprise and disappointment that the ecclesiastical organisation, which appeared to be so desirable an ally for imperial power, concealed the internal disunion of hostile factions fiercely quarrelling over the substance of their God. He, therefore, tried