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Collapse Of The Anti-nicene Midd

When Constantius became sole Emperor, on the death of his brother Constans
in 350, there was no further need of considering the interests of the
Nicene party. Only the necessity of establishing his authority in the West
against usurpers engaged his attention until 356, when a series of
councils began, designed to put an end to the Nicene faith. Of the
numerous confessions of faith put forth, the second creed of Sirmium of
357 is important as attempting to abolish in connection with the
discussion the use of the term ousia and likewise homoousios and
homoiousios (a). At Nice in Thrace a still greater departure from
Nicaea was attempted in 359, and a creed was put forth (b), which is of
special significance as containing the first reference in a creed to the
descensus ad inferos and to the fact that it was subscribed by the
deputies of the West including Bishop Liberius of Rome. For the discussion
of this act of Liberius, see J. Barmby, art. "Liberius" in DCB; see also
Catholic Encyclopaedia, art. "Liberius." It was also received in the
synod of Seleucia in the East. On these councils see Athanasius, De
Synodis (PNF). It was in reference to this acceptance of the creed of
Nice that Jerome wrote "The whole world groaned and was astonished that it
was Arian." See Jerome, Contra Luciferianos, 18 ff. (PNF. ser. II,
vol. VI).

Inasmuch as the anti-Nicene opposition party was a coalition of all
parties opposed to the wording of the Nicene creed, as soon as that creed
was abolished the bond that held them together was broken. At once there
arose an extreme Arianism which had remained in the background. On the
other hand, those who were opposed to Arianism sought to draw nearer the
Nicene party. These were the Homoiousians, who objected to the term
homoousios as savoring of Sabellianism, and yet admitted the essential
point implied by it. That this was so was pointed out by Hilary of
Poitiers (c) who contended that what the West meant by homoousios the
East meant by homoiousios. The Homoiousian party of the East split on the
question of the deity of the Holy Spirit. Those of them who denied the
deity of the Spirit remained Semi-Arians.

(a) Second Creed of Sirmium, in Hilary of Poitiers, De Synodis, ch.
11. (MSL, 10:487.) Cf. Hahn, 161.

The Council of Sirmium in 357 was the second in that city. It was
attended entirely by bishops from the West. But among them were
Ursacius, Valens, and Germinius, leaders of the opposition to the
Nicene creed. Hosius under compulsion signed the following; see
Hilary, loc cit. The Latin original is given by Hilary.

It is evident that there is one God, the Father Almighty, according as it
is believed throughout the whole world; and His only Son Jesus Christ our
Saviour, begotten of Him before the ages. But we cannot and ought not to
say there are two Gods.

But since some or many persons were disturbed by questions as to
substance, called in Greek ousia, that is, to make it understood more
exactly, as to homoousios or what is called homoiousios, there ought
to be no mention of these at all, nor ought any one to state them; for the
reason and consideration that they are not contained in the divine
Scriptures, and that they are above man's understanding, nor can any man
declare the birth of the Son, of whom it is written: "Who shall declare
His generation?" For it is plain that only the Father knows how He begat
the Son, and the Son how He was begotten of the Father. There is no
question that the Father is greater. No one can doubt that the Father is
greater than the Son, in honor, dignity, splendor, majesty and in the very
name Father, the Son himself testifying, He that sent Me is greater than
I. And no one is ignorant that it is Catholic doctrine that there are two
persons of Father and Son; and that the Father is greater, and that the
Son is subordinated to the Father, together with all things which the
Father hath subordinated to Him; and that the Father has no beginning and
is invisible, immortal, and impassible, but that the Son has been begotten
of the Father, God of God, light of light, and of this Son the generation,
as is aforesaid, no one knows but His Father. And that the Son of God
himself, our Lord and God, as we read, took flesh or a body, that is, man
of the womb of the Virgin Mary, as the angel announced. And as all the
Scriptures teach, and especially the doctor of the Gentiles himself. He
took of Mary the Virgin, man, through whom He suffered. And the whole
faith is summed up and secured in this, that the Trinity must always be
preserved, as we read in the Gospel: "Go ye and baptize all nations in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Complete and
perfect is the number of the Trinity. Now the Paraclete, or the Spirit, is
through the Son: who was sent and came according to His promise in order
to instruct, teach, and sanctify the Apostles and all believers.

(b) Creed of Nice A. D. 359, Theodoret, Hist. Ec., II, 16. (MSG,
82:1049.) Cf. Hahn, 164.

The deputies from the Council of Ariminum were sent to Nice, a
small town in Thrace, where they met the heads of the Arian party.
A creed, strongly Arian in tendency, was given them and they were
sent back to Ariminum to have it accepted. See Theodoret, loc.
cit., and Athanasius, De Synodis.

We believe in one and only true God, Father Almighty, of whom are all
things. And in the only begotten Son of God, who before all ages and
before every beginning was begotten of God, through whom all things were
made, both visible and invisible; begotten, only begotten, alone of the
Father alone, God of God, like the Father that begat Him, according to the
Scriptures, whose generation no one knoweth except only the Father that
begat Him. This only begotten Son of God, sent by His Father, we know to
have come down from heaven, as it is written, for the destruction of sin
and death; begotten of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, as it is
written, according to the flesh. Who companied with His disciples, and
when the whole dispensation was fulfilled, according to the Father's will,
was crucified, dead and buried, and descended to the world below, at whom
hell itself trembled; on the third day He rose from the dead and companied
with His disciples, and when forty days were completed He was taken up
into the heavens, and sitteth on the right hand of His Father, and is
coming at the last day of the resurrection, in His Father's glory, to
render to every one according to his works. And in the Holy Ghost, which
the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, both God and Lord, promised to
send to the race of men, the comforter, as it is written, the spirit of
truth, and this Spirit He himself sent after He had ascended into the
heavens and sat at the right hand of the Father, from thence He is coming
to judge both the quick and the dead.

But the word "substance," which was simply inserted by the Fathers and not
being understood was a cause of scandal to the people because it was not
found in the Scriptures, it hath seemed good to us to remove, and that for
the future no mention whatever be permitted of "substance," because the
sacred Scriptures nowhere make any mention of the "substance" of the
Father and the Son. Nor must one "subsistence" [hypostasis] be named in
relation to the person [prosopon] of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And we
call the Son like the Father, as the Holy Scriptures call Him and teach.
But all heresies, both those already condemned, and any, if such there be,
which have arisen against the document thus put forth, let them be

(c) Hilary of Poitiers. De Synodis, 88, 89, 91. (MSL, 10:540.)

That the Homoiousian party meant substantially the same by their
term homoiousios as did the Homoousians or the Nicene party, by
their term homoousios.

Hilary was of great importance in the Arian controversy in
bringing the Homoiousian party of the East and the Nicene party of
the West to an agreement. The Eastern theologians, who hesitated
to accept the Nicene term, were eventually induced to accept,
understanding by the term homoousios the same as homoiousios. See
below, 70.

88. Holy brethren, I understand by homoousios God of God, not of an
unlike essence, not divided, but born; and that the Son has a birth that
is unique, of the substance of the unknown God, that He is begotten yet
co-eternal and wholly like the Father. The word homoousios greatly helped
me already believing this. Why do you condemn my faith in the homoousios,
which you cannot disapprove by the confession of the homoiousios? For you
condemn my faith, or rather your own, when you condemn its verbal
equivalent. Does somebody else misunderstand it? Let us together condemn
the misunderstanding, but not take away the security of your faith. Do you
think that one must subscribe to the Samosetene Council, so that no one
may make use of homoousios in the sense of Paul of Samosata? Then let us
subscribe to the Council of Nicaea, so that the Arians may not impugn the
word homoousios. Have we to fear that homoiousios does not imply the same
belief as homoousios? Let us decree that there is no difference between
being of one and being of a similar substance. But may not the word
homoousios be understood in a wrong sense? Let it be proved that it can be
understood in a good sense. We hold one and the same sacred truth. I
beseech you that the one and the same truth which we hold, we should
regard as sacred among us. Forgive me, brethren, as I have so often asked
you to do. You are not Arians; why, then, by denying the homoousios,
should you be thought to be Arians?

89. True likeness belongs to a true natural connection. But when the
true natural connection exists, the homoousios is implied. It is likeness
according to essence when one piece of metal is like another and not
plated. Nothing can be like gold but gold, or like milk that does not
belong to that species.

91. I do not know the word homoousios or understand it unless it
confesses a similarity of essence. I call God of heaven and earth to
witness, that when I heard neither word, my belief was always such that I
should have interpreted homoiousios by homoousios. That is I believed that
nothing could be similar according to nature unless it was of the same

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