First ... the language of the Ante-nicene Fathers, on the subject of our Lord's Divinity, may be far more easily accommodated to the Arian hypothesis than can the language of the Post-nicene, is agreed on all hands. Thus St. Justin speaks of the Son as subservient to the Father in the creation of the world, as seen by Abraham, as speaking to Moses from the bush, as appearing to Joshua before the fall of Jericho, as Minister and Angel, and as numerically distinct from the Father. Clement, again, speaks of the Word as the "Instrument of God," "close to the Sole Almighty;" "ministering to the Omnipotent Father's will;"  "an energy, so to say, or operation of the Father," and "constituted by His will as the cause of all good."  Again, the Council of Antioch, which condemned Paul of Samosata, says that He "appears to the Patriarchs and converses with them, being testified sometimes to be an Angel, at other times Lord, at others God;" that, while "it is impious to think that the God of all is called {136} an Angel, the son is the Angel of the Father." Formal proof, however, is unnecessary; had not the fact been as I have stated it, neither Sandius would have professed to differ from the Post-nicene Fathers, nor would Bull have had to defend the Ante-nicene.


One principal change which took place, as time went on, was the following: the Ante-nicene Fathers, as in some of the foregoing extracts, speak of the Angelic visions in the Old Testament as if they were appearances of the Son; but St. Augustine introduced the explicit doctrine, which has been received since his date, that they were simply Angels, through whom the Omnipresent Son manifested Himself. This indeed is the only interpretation which the Ante-nicene statements admitted, as soon as reason began to examine what they did mean. They could not mean that the Eternal God could really be seen by bodily eyes; if anything was seen, that must have been some created glory or other symbol, by which it pleased the Almighty to signify His Presence. What was heard was a sound, as external to His Essence, and as distinct from His Nature, as the thunder or the voice of the trumpet, which pealed along Mount Sinai; what it was had not come under discussion till St. Augustine; both question and answer were alike undeveloped. The earlier Fathers spoke as if there were no medium interposed between the Creator and the creature, and so they seemed to make the Eternal Son the medium; what it really was, they had not determined. St. Augustine ruled, and his ruling has been accepted in later times, that it was not a mere atmospheric phenomenon, or an impression on the senses, but the material form proper to an Angelic presence, or the presence of an Angel in that material garb in which blessed Spirits do ordinarily appear to men. Henceforth the Angel in the bush, the voice which spoke with Abraham, and the man who wrestled with Jacob, were not regarded as the Son of God, but as Angelic ministers, whom He employed, and through whom He signified His presence and His will.

Thus the tendency of the controversy with the Arians was to raise our view of our Lord's Mediatorial acts, to impress them on us in their divine rather than their human aspect, and to associate them more intimately with the ineffable glories which surround the Throne of God. The Mediatorship was no longer regarded in itself, in that prominently subordinate place which it had once occupied in the thoughts of Christians, but as an office assumed by One, who though having become man in order to bear it, was still God. Works and attributes, which had hitherto been assigned to the Economy or to the Sonship, were now simply assigned to the Manhood. A tendency was also elicited, as the controversy proceeded, to contemplate our Lord more distinctly in His absolute perfections, than in His relation to the First Person of the Blessed Trinity. Thus, whereas the Nicene Creed speaks of the "Father Almighty," and "His Only-begotten Son, our Lord, God from God, Light from Light, Very God from Very God," and of the Holy Ghost, "the Lord and Giver of Life," we are told in the Athanasian of "the Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal," and that "none is afore or after other, none is greater or less than another."


The Apollinarian and Monophysite controversy, which followed in the course of the next century, tended towards a development in the same direction. Since the heresies, which were in question, maintained, at least virtually, that our Lord was not man, it was obvious to insist on the passages of Scripture which describe His created and subservient nature, and this had the immediate effect of interpreting of His manhood texts which had hitherto been understood more commonly of His Divine Sonship. Thus, for instance, "My Father is greater than I," which had been understood even by St. Athanasius of our Lord as God, is applied by later writers more commonly to His humanity; and in this way the doctrine of His subordination to the Eternal Father, which formed so prominent a feature in Ante-nicene theology, comparatively fell into the shade.


And coincident with these changes, a most remarkable result is discovered. The Catholic polemic, in view of the Arian and Monophysite errors, being of this character, became the natural introduction to the cultus Sanctorum, for in proportion as texts descriptive of created mediation ceased to belong to our Lord, so was a room opened for created mediators. Nay, as regards the instance of Angelic appearances itself, as St. Augustine explained them, if those appearances were creatures, certainly creatures were worshipped by the Patriarchs, not indeed in themselves, but as the token of a Presence greater than themselves. When "Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God," he hid his face before a creature; when Jacob said, "I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved," the Son of God was there, but what he saw, what he wrestled with, was an Angel. When "Joshua fell on his face to the earth and did worship before the captain of the Lord's host, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant?" what was seen and heard was a glorified creature, if St. Augustine is to be followed; and the Son of God was in him.