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by Eastern theologians, and eventually caused the final separation of the Greek and Roman churches, with mutual imprecations.
The Creed of Nicæa, even in its fullest development, failed to unravel the tangled skein of Christian theosophy; and rival theologians propounded so many conflicting theories in the course of centuries preceding the ages of intellectual darkness, that the Gnostic origin of the Trinity was forgotten, its anomalies pronounced an incomprehensible mystery, and its impossibilities mistaken for the inscrutable wisdom of God. This was the opportunity of some unknown genius of the eighth century, who composed, with all the audacity of ignorance, the famous formula of the so-called Catholic Faith which, in the borrowed name of Athanasius, consigned untold millions to perdition for discrediting the impossible.
This Confession of Faith' no doubt expressed the religious tendencies of an age in which the Trinitarian myth had become an ecclesiastical mystery; but when we affirm that Christendom adopted the arbitrary formula of an unknown theologian, or credulously accepted his damnatory conclusions as the doctrines of Athanasius, we seem rather to reproduce the malignant satire of some vindictive enemy of the Church, than an attested fact of ecclesiastical history.
In thus recording the evolution of the Trinity, we simply tell what all may read in the triple creeds of ecclesiastical Christianity. The so-called Apostles' Creed
· The author of this Creed was apparently unconscious that, in granting eternal life as the reward of virtue at the final judgment, he destroyed the theory of salvation contingent on orthodox belief.
affirms the supernatural birth of Jesus, and the personality of the Spirit-doctrines unknown in the School of Galilee. The Confession of Nicæa confers on both an Aonic Divinity alien to the more primitive creed. And Pseudo-Athanasius proclaims an incomprehensible Trinity, which would have filled the Council of Nicæa with amazement.
How clearly may we not, therefore, trace the lineal descent of modern Christian theology? The ancient Hebrews believed in Jehovah as their national God. Contact with Aryan Monotheists transformed the Semitic Deity into the Supreme Ruler of the universe, worshipped in the age of Jesus as our Heavenly Father.1 Hellenistic Hebrews saw, in this Infinite Being, the great First Cause of Platonic philosophy, and in the Logos, their own Jehovah invested with subordinate divinity. Gentile Christians adopted the same theology with the startling innovation that Jehovah, Jesus, and the Logos are one. As time passed on, the Hebrew Deity, together with the Nazarene Church, disappeared out of the theological arena : Jesus became the sole Logos of Christianity; the Spirit was invested with Divinity; and Monotheistic Christendom, confronted with three Deities, escaped the embarrassing charge of polytheism by announcing, on ecclesiastical authority, that infinite Beings, superior to merely human numbers, may count as three, and yet be only one.
What, therefore, are our conclusions ? That the tribal Jehovah was a Semitic myth ; that Jesus, claim
· Protestantism having accepted the infinity of Jehovah, its theologians are ever confronted by the hopeless task of reconciling the policy of a tribal Deity with the Providence of God.
ing to be nothing more than man, worshipped an Aryan ideal of paternal Divinity; that his posthumous deification, in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, was an Æonic fiction; that the Trinity was a compromise between Monotheism and Æonism; and that, finally, our modern ideal of Supreme Divinity is the product of the ages, evolved, in absolute independence of the supernatural, through the spiritual conceptions of the highest minds of all time, dwelling on the momentous problem of man's relationship with the Infinite.
In view of the conclusions already attained, it may appear superfluous to consider the dogma of the Atonement; but, as it is the cardinal doctrine of Protestantism, let us briefly test the claims of vicarious expiation on the reason and faith of mankind.
Notwithstanding that Moses engrafted on Judaism an elaborate ritualism of blood, the Hebrew Scriptures generally affirm that man's repentance wins divine forgiveness. In Exodus xxxiv. we read of Jehovah as a merciful, gracious, long-suffering Deity, ever ready to forgive the sins and transgressions of his people ; and Isaiah, having emphatically denounced ceremonies and sacrifice as revolting to Divinity, proclaims unconditional pardon for all who forsake their sins and return to their God.2
John the Baptist exhorted all men to repent, in absolute unconsciousness of the divine demand for atonement; sacrifice was a word unheard in the kingdom of heaven ; and the Son of Man, in depicting the final Judgment, awarded salvation, not to vicarious, but to individual merit. How, in fact, could the Preacher of the Mount have invited his disciples to imitate Divinity by freely forgiving all injuries, if he knew that
his Father in heaven was an inexorable Judge, inflexible in the demand for a victim before listening to the plea of repentance ?
The Evangelists who profess to record the discourses of Jesus after his Resurrection, attribute to him no final revelation of a Gospel of blood. The compiler of the Acts of the Apostles puts into the mouths of Peter, Stephen, and Paul, speeches which disclose absolute ignorance of the doctrine of the Atonement. And the author of the Epistle of James, which stands next to the Logia of Matthew as a reliable record of the teaching of Jesus, knew of no sacrificial element in the Gospel of the kingdom.
The Epistle to the Hebrews, composed with the obvious design of reconciling Judaism and Christianity through the allegorical interpretation of Scripture, is the original source of that theological fiction which accepts the death of Jesus as the antitype of Mosaic sacrifice ; but can we permit an anonymous theologian to corrupt the teaching of the Son of Man, through an imaginary relationship between the barbarous rite of sacrifice and the appalling tragedy of Calvary? This epistle was identified with the Pauline school; and we, therefore, find the works, more reasonably assignable to the
pen of the great apostle, interpolated in the same spirit of aliegorical theosophy. Thus in 1 Corinthians v. 7, we read, 'For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.' And in Ephesians ii. Jesus is depicted as abolishing in his flesh the law contained in ordinances, and including Gentiles in the covenant through his blood.
The author of the first Epistle of Peter speaks of