skip to primary navigation skip to content

[Excerpt From Chapter IV: Cudworth On The Platonic Trinity.]

We have now given a full account of the True and Genuine Platonick and Parmenidian or Pythagorick Trinity; from which it may clearly appear, how far it either Agreeth or Disagreeth with the Christian. First therefore, though some of the Latter Platonists have partly Misunderstood, and partly Adulterated that ancient Cabala of the Trinity, as was before declared, confounding therein the Differences between God and the Creature, and thereby laying a foundation for Infinite Polytheism; yet did Plato himself and some of his Genuine followers (though living before Christianity) approach so near to the Doctrine thereof as in some manner to correspond therewith, in those Three Fundamentals before mentioned; First, <592> in not making a meer Trinity of Names and Words, or of Logical Notions and Inadequate Conceptions, of One and the Same thing; but a Trinity of Hypostases or Subsistences, or Persons. Secondly, in making none of their Three Hypostases, to be Creatures, but all Eternal, Necessarily Existent, and Universal; Infinite, Omnipotent; and Creators of the whole World; which is all one in the sence of the ancients, as if they should have affirmed them to be Homoousian. Lastly, in supposing these Three Divine Hypostases, however sometimes Paganically called Three Gods, to be Essentially, One Divinity. From whence it may be concluded, that as Arianism is commonly supposed to approach nearer to the Truth of Christianity than Photinianism, so is Platonism undoubtedly more agreeable thereunto than Arianism; it being a certain Middle thing betwixt That and Sabellianism, which in general was that Mark that the Nicene Council also aimed at.

Notwithstanding which, there is a manifest Disagreement also, betwixt the Platonick Trinity as declared, and the Now-received Doctrine in the Christian Church; consisting in a different Explication of the Two latter Points mentioned. First, because the Platonists dream'd of no such thing at all, as One and the Same Numerical Essence or Substance, of the Three Divine Hypostases. And Secondly, because though they acknowledged none of those Hypostases to be Creatures, but all God; yet did they assert an Essential Dependence of the Second and Third upon the First, together with a certain Gradual Subordination; and therefore no Absolute Co-equality. And this is the true reason, why so many late Writers, have affirmed Platonism to Symbolize with Arianism, and the Latter to have been indeed nothing else but the Spawn of the Former; meerly because the Platonists did not acknowledge One and the Same Numerical Essence or Substance of all their Three Hypostases; and asserted a Gradual Subordination of them; but chiefly for this Latter Ground. Upon which account some of the ancients also, have done the like, as Particularly S Cyril (Contra Jul. Lib. 1.) he writing thus concernning {sic} Plato,[1] Τεθεώρηκε μέν οὖν οὐχ ὑγιῶς εἰσάπαν, ἀλλὰ τοῖς τὰ Ἁρείου πεφρονηκόσιν, ἐν ἴσῳ διαιρεῖ, καὶ ὐφίστησιν, ὐποκαθεμέναϛ τε ἀλλήλαις τὰς ὑποστάσεις εἰσφέρει. Plato did not thoroughly perceive the whole Truth of the Trinity, but in like manner with those who follow Arius, divided the Deity, or made a Gradation in it, and Introduced Subordinate Hypostases. As elsewhere the same Pious Father, also taxes the Platonists, for not declaring the Three Hypostases of their Trinity, to be, in his sence, Homo-ousian; that is, Absolutely Co-equal. But though we have already proved, that Platonism can by no means be confounded with Arianism; because it directly confronted the same in its main Essentials, which were Erat quando non Erat, or the Second Hypostasis being made ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων, together with its being Mutable and Lapsible; since according to Platonism, the Nous is Essentially both Eternal and Immutable: yet that the most Refined Platonism, differed from the Now-received Doctrine of the Christian Church; in respect of its Gradual Subordination, is a thing so Unquestionably Evident, as that it can by no means be Dissembled, Palliated, or Excused.


Over and besides which, it cannot be denied but the best of Plato's Followers, were sometimes also further extravagant in their Doctrine of the Trinity, and spake at random concerning it, and Inconsistently with their own Principles; especially where they make such a Vast and Disproportionate Distance betwixt the Second and Third Hypostases thereof; they not Descending Gradually and Orderly, but as it were Tumbling down, from the Former of them to the Latter. Thus Plotinus himself,[2] when having spoken magnificently of that Soul of the World, which is his Third Hypostasis, he subjoyns immediately, ὁμοειδὴς δὲ καὶ ἡμετέρα, καὶ ὅταν ἄνευ τῶν προσελθόντων σκοπῇς, λαβὼν κεκαθαρμένην, εὑρήσεις τὸ αὐτο τίμιον ὃ ἧν ψυχή. That this Soul of ours, is also Uniform (or of the same Species) with that Mundane Soul; For if any one (saith he) will consider it as in it self, Pure and Naked, or stript from all things adventitious to it, he shall find it to be in like manner venerable. Agreeably whereunto doth this same Philosopher elsewhere call that Mundane Soul, πρεσβυτὲραν καὶ ἀδελφὴν, that is, but the Elder Sister of our Humane Souls. Which as it rankly savours of Philosophick Pride and Arrogancy, thus to think so magnificently of themselves, and to equalize in a manner their own Souls, with that Mundane Soul; so was it a Monstrous Degradation, of that Third Hypostasis of their Trinity, and little other than an Absolute Creaturizing of the same. For if our Humane Soul be ὁμοειδὴς, of the same Kind or Species, with the Third Hypostasis of the Trinity, then is it not only ὁμότιμος, of like Honour and Dignity, but also in the Language of the Christian Church, ὁμοούσιος, Co-Essential with our Humane Souls, (as our Saviour Christ according to the Arians in Athanasius, is said to be,[3] ὁμοούσιος ἠμῶν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, Co-Essential with us men.) From whence it will follow, That either, That must be a Creature, or else our Humane Souls Divine. Wherefore unless these Platonists would confine the Deity wholly to their First Hypostasis; which would be monstrously absurd for them, to suppose that First Eternal Mind and Wisdom, by which the World was Made, to be a Creature; they must of necessity make a Vast Leap or Jump, betwixt the Second and Third of their Hypostases; the Former of them, being that Perfect Wisdom which was the Architect or Demiurgus of the World, whilest the Latter is only, the Elder Sister of all Humane Souls. Moreover these Platonists by their thus bringing down the Third Hypostasis of their Trinity so low, and Immersing it so deeply into the Corporeal World, as if it were the Informing Soul thereof, and making it to be but the Elder Sister of our Created Souls, did doubtless therein designedly lay a foundation for their Polytheism and Creature-Worship (now Vulgarly called Idolatry) that is, for their Cosmo-Latry, Astro-Latry, and Demono-Latry. For thus much is plainly intimated in this following Passage of Plotinus,[4] διὰ ταύτην ὁ κόσμος ὅδε θεός. ἔστι δὲ καὶ ἥλιος θεὸς ὅτι ἔμψυχος, καὶ τὰ ἄλλα ἂστρα, This whole Corporeal World is made a God by the Soul thereof. And the Sun is also a God, because Animated; as likewise are all the Stars therefore Gods. Where he afterwards adds, τὴν δὲ θεοῖς αἰτίαν τοῦ θεοῖς εἶναι, ἀνάγκῃ πρεσβυτέραν θεὸν αὐτῶν εἶναι. That which is to these Gods or Goddesses, the Cause of their being Gods, must needs it self, be the Elder God or Goddess. So that <594> this Third Hypostasis of the Platonick Trinity, called the Mundane Soul, is but a kind of Sister-Goddess, with the Souls of the Sun, Moon and Stars, though elder indeed than they; they being all made Goddesses by her. Where there is a confused Jumble of things Contradictious together; That Soul of the World being at once supposed to be a Sister to other Souls and yet notwithstanding to Deifie them; whereas this Sisterly Relation and Consanguinity betwixt them, would of the Two, rather Degrade and Creaturize that Mundane Soul, which is their Third God or Divine Hypostasis, than Advance and Deifie those Particular Created Souls. Here therefore we see the Inconvenience of these Platonick βαθμοὶ, Stories, Stairs, and Gradations in the Deity, that it is a thing liable to be much abused to Creature-worship and Idolatry, when the Distances are made so Wide, and the Lowest of the Deity is supposed to differ but Gradually only, from the Highest of Created Beings. And because Porphyrius trode in Plotinus his Footsteps here as elsewhere, this was in all probability the true reason why the Arians (as Socrates recordeth) were by Constantine called Porphyrianists, not because their Trinities were exactly the same, but because Arius and Porphyrius did both of them alike (though upon different Grounds) make their Trinity a Foundation for Creature-Worship and Idolatry. But nevertheless, all This (as many other things) was but heedlesly and inadvertently written by Plotinus; he as it were drousily nodding all the while, as it was also but supinely taken up by Porphyrius after him; it being Plainly Inconsistent with the Genuine Tenour of both their Hypotheses, thus to Level the Third Hypostasis of the Trinity, with Particular Created Souls, and thereby to make so Disproportionate a Distance, and so Vast a Chasm betwixt It and the Second. For Plotinus himself, when in a more sober mood, declares, that Third Hypostasis, not to be the Immediate Informing Soul of the Corporeal World; but a Higher Separate Soul, or Superiour Venus, which also was the Demiurgus, the Maker both of other Souls and of the whole World. As Plato had before expresly affirmed him to be the Inspirer of all Life, and Creator of Souls, or the Lord and Giver of Life. And likewise declared, that amongst all those things, which are ἀνθρωπίνης ψυχῆς συγγενῆ, Congenerous and Cognate with our Humane Souls, there is οὐδὲν τοιοῦτο, nothing any where to be found at all like unto it. So that Plato, though he were also a Star-worshipper and Idolater, upon other grounds; yet in all probability would he not at all have approved of Plotinus his ὁμοειδὴς δὲ καὶ ἠμετέρα, our Souls being of the same Species with that Third Hypostasis of the Divine Triad; but rather have said, in the Language of the Psalmist, It is he that hath made us, and not we our selves, we are his People and the Sheep of his Pasture.

Notwithstanding all which, a Christian Platonist or Platonick Christian, would in all probability, Apologize for Plato himself, and the ancient and most Genuine Platonists and Pythagoreans after this manner. First, That since they had no Scriptures, Councils, nor Creeds, to direct their steps in the Darkness of this Mystery, and to confine their Language to a Regular Uniformity; but Theologized all Freely and Boldly, and without any Scrupulosity, every one ac <595> cording to his own private apprehensions, it is no wonder at all if they did not only speak many times unadvisedly, and inconsistently with their own Principles, but also plainly wander out of the Right Path. And that it ought much rather to be wondred at, that living so long before Christianity, as some of them did, they should in so Abstruse a Point, and Dark a Mystery, make so near an approach to the Christian Truth afterwards revealed, than that they should any where fumble or fall short of the Accuracy thereof. They not only extending the True and Real Deity to Three Hypostases, but also calling the Second of them, λόγον, Reason or Word too, (as well as νοῦν, Mind or Intellect) and likewise the Son of the First Hypostasis, the Father; and affirming him to be the δημιουργὸς and αἴτιον, the Artificer and Cause of the whole World; and Lastly describing him as the Scripture doth, to be the Image, the Figure or Character, and the Splendour or Brightness of the First. This, I say, our Christian Platonist, supposes to be much more wonderful, that this so Great and Abstruse a Mystery, of Three Eternal Hypostases in the Deity, should thus by Pagan Philosophers, so long before Christianity, have been asserted, as the Principle and Original of the whole World; it being more indeed than was acknowledged by the Nicene Fathers themselves; they then not so much as determining, that the Holy Ghost was an Hypostasis, much less that he was God.

But Particularly as to their Gradual Subordination of the Second Hypostasis to the First, and of the Third to the First and Second; our Platonick Christian, doubtless would therefore plead them the more excusable, because the Generality of Christian Doctors, for the First Three Hundred years after the Apostles times, plainly asserted the same; as Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Tatianus, Irenæus, the Author of the Recognitions, Tertullian, Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, Gregorius Thaumaturgus, Dionysius of Alexandria, Lactantius, and many others. All whose Testimonies, because it would be too tedious to set down here, we shall content our selves only with one of the last mentioned;[5] Et Pater & Filius Deus est: Sed Ille quasi exuberans Fons, Hic tanquam defluens ex eo Rivus: Ille tanquam Sol, Hic tanquam Radius à Sole porrectus: Both the Father and the Son is God: But he as it were an Exuberant Fountain, this as a Stream derived from him: He like to the Sun, This like to a Ray extended from the Sun. And though it be true, that Athanasius writing against the Arians, does appeal to the Tradition of the Ancient Church, and amongst others cites Origen's Testimony too; yet was this only for the Eternity and Divinity of the Son of God, but not at all for such an Absolute Co-equality of him with the Father, as would exclude all Dependence, Subordination and Inferiority; those Ancients so Unanimously agreeing therein, that they are by Petavius therefore taxed for Platonism, and having by that means corrupted the Purity of the Christian Faith, in this Article of the Trinity. Which how it can be reconciled with those other Opinions, of Ecclesiastick Tradition being a Rule of Faith, and the Impossibility of the Visible Churches Erring in any Fundamental Point, cannot easily be understood. However this General Tradition or Consent of the Christian Church, for Three Hundred years together after the Apo <596> stles Times, though it cannot Justifie the Platonists, in any thing discrepant from the Scripture, yet may it in some measure doubtless plead their excuse, who had no Scripture Revelation at all, to guide them herein; and so at least make their Error more Tolerable or Pardonable.

Moreover the Platonick Christian would further Apologize for these Pagan Platonists after this manner. That their Intention in thus Subordinating the Hypostases of their Trinity, was plainly no other, than to exclude thereby a Plurality of Co-ordinate and Independent Gods, which they supposed an absolute Co-equality of them would infer. And that they made only so much Subordination of them, as was both necessary to this purpose, and unavoidable; the Juncture of them being in their Opinion so close, that there was, μηδὲν μεταξὺ, Nothing Intermedious, or that could possibly be Thrust in between them. But now again on the otherhand, whereas the only ground of the Co-Equality of the Persons in the Holy Trinity, is because it cannot well be conceived, how they should otherwise all be God; since the Essence of the Godhead, being Absolute Perfection, can admit of no degrees; these Platonists do on the contrary contend, that notwithstanding that Dependence and Subordination which they commonly suppose in these Hypostases, there is none of them for all that, to be accounted Creatures, but that the General Essence of the Godhead, or the Uncreated Nature, truly and properly belongeth to them all: according to that of Porphyrius before cited, ἄχρι τριῶν ὑποστάσεων τὴν θειού προελθεῖν οὐσίαν, The Essence of the Godhead, proceedeth to Three Hypostases. Now these Platonists conceive, that the Essence of the Godhead, as common to all the Three Hypostases of their Trinity, consisteth (besides Perfect Intellectuality) in these Following things. First, In Being Eternal, which as we have already showed, was Plato's Distinctive Character, betwixt God and the Creature. That whatsoever was Eternal, is therefore Uncreated; and whatsoever was not Eternal, is a Creature. He by Eternity meaning, the having not only no Beginning, but also a Permanent Duration. Again, In having not a Contingent but Necessary Existence, and therefore being Absolutely Undestroyable; which perhaps is included also in the Former. Lastly, In being not Particular but Universal, ἓν καὶ πάντα, One and all things, or that which Comprehends the whole; which is all one as to say, in being Infinite and Omnipotent, and the Creator of the whole World. Now say these Platonists, if any thing more were to be added to the General Essence of the Godhead besides this, then must it be Self-existence, or to be Underived from any other, and the First Original, Principle, and Cause of all; but if this be made so Essential to the Godhead, or Uncreated Nature, as that whatsoever is not thus Originally of it Self, is therefore ipso facto to be detruded and thrust down into the rank of Creatures; then must both the Second and Third Hypostases, as well in the Christian as the Platonick Trinity, upon this Supposition, needs be Creatures and not God; the Second deriving its whole Being and Godship from the First, and the Third, both from the First and Second, and so neither First nor Second being the Cause of all things. But it is unquestionable to these Platonists, that whatsoever is Eternal; Necessarily <597> Existent; Infinite, and Omnipotent, and the Creator of All things; ought therefore to be Religiously Worshipped and Adored as God, by all Created Beings. Wherefore this Essence of the Godhead, that belongeth alike to all the Three Hypostases, being, as all other Essences, Perfectly Indivisible, it might well be affirmed, according to Platonick Grounds, that all the Three Divine Hypostases (though having some Subordination in them) yet in this sence are Co-Equal, they being all truly and alike God or Uncreated. And the Platonists thus distinguishing, betwixt οὐσία and ὑπόστασις, the Essence of the Godhead, and the Distinct Hypostases or Personalities thereof, and making the First of them to be Common, General and Universal; are not without the consent and approbation of the Orthodox Fathers herein; they determining likewise, that in the Deity, Essence or Substance differs from Hypostasis, as τὸ κοινὸν from τὸ καθ᾽ ἕκαστον, that which is Common and General, differs from that which is Singular and Individual. Thus, besides many others, St. Cyril, ἣν ἔχει διαφορὰν τὸ γενὸς, ἢ εἶδος, ὑπὲρ τὸ ἄτομον, ταύτην ἡ οὐσία πρὸς τὸν ὑπόστασιν ἔχει. The Essence or Substance of the Deity, differs from the Hypostasis, after the same manner as a Genus or Species differs from an Individuum. So that as well according to these Fathers as the Platonists, that Essence or Substance of the Godhead, which all the Three Persons agree in, is not Singular, but Generical or Universal; they both supposing, each of the Persons also, to have their own Numerical Essence. Wherefore according to this Distinction, betwixt the Essence or Substance of the Godhead, and the Particular Hypostases, (approved by the Orthodox Fathers) neither Plato, nor any Intelligent Platonist, would scruple to subscribe, that Form of the Nicene Council, that the Son or Word, is ὁμοούσιος, Co-Essential or Con-Substantial, and Co-Equal with the Father. And we think it will be proved afterwards, that this was the very Meaning of the Nicene Council it self, that the Son was therefore Co-Essential or Con-Substantial with the Father; meerly because he was God and not a Creature.

Besides which the Genuine Platonists would doubtless acknowledge also, all the Three Hypostases of their Trinity to be Homoousian, Co-Essential or Con-Substantial yet in a further sence than this, namely as being all of them One Θεῖον or Divinity. For thus, besides that passage of Porphyrius before cited, may these words also of St. Cyril be understood concerning them, μέχρι τριῶν ὑποστάσεων τὴν οὐσίαν τοῦ θεοῦ προσήκειν ἰσχυρίζονται. That according to them the Essence of God, extendeth to Three Hypostases, or comprehendeth Three Hypostases in it; that is, not only so as that each of these Three is God; but also that they are not so many Separate and Divided Gods, but all of them together One God or Divinity. For though the Platonists as Pagans, being not so Scrupulous in their Language as we Christians are; do often call them Three Gods, and a First, Second, and Third God; yet notwithstanding as Philosophers, did they declare them to be, One Θεῖον or Divinity; and that as it seems upon these several accounts following. First, Because they are Indivisibly conjoyned together, as the Splendour is Indivisible from the Sun. And then, Because they are Mutually Inexistent in each other, the First being in the Second, and both First and Second <598> in the Third. And Lastly, Because the Entireness of the whole Divinity, is made up of all these Three together, which have all μίαν ἐνέργειαν One and the same Energy, or Action ad extra. And therefore as the Centre, Radious Distance, and Movable Circumference, may be all said to be Co-Essential to a Sphere; and the Root, Stock, and Bows or Branches, Co-Essential to an entire Tree; so, but in much a more perfect sence, are the Platonick Tagathon, Nous and Psyche, Co-Essential to that, ἐν τῷ παντὶ θεῖον, that Divinity in the whole Universe. Neither was Athanasius a stranger to this Notion of the word ὁμοούσιος also, he affirming[6] τὰ κλήματα ὁμοούσια καὶ ἀδιαίρετα εἶναι τῆς ἀμπέλου, That the Branches are Co-Essential with, and Indivisible from the Vine; and Illustrating the Trinity by that Similitude. Neither must it be thought, that the Whole Trinity is One, after the very same manner, that each Single Person thereof is in it self One, for then should there be a Trinity also in each Person. Not that it is so called Undivided, as if Three were not Three in it; (which were to make the Mystery Contemptible) but because all the Three Hypostases or Persons, are Indivisibly and Inseparably united to each other, as the Sun and the Splendour; and really but One God. Wherefore though there be some Subordination of Hypostases or Persons in Plato's Trinity, (as it is commonly represented) yet is this only ad intrà, within the Deity it self, in their Relation to one another, and as compared amongst themselves; but ad extrà, Outwardly, and to Us, are they all One and the same God, concurring in all the same Actions; and in that respect without any Inequality, because in Identity there can be no Inequality.

Furthermore the Platonick Christian, would in favour of these Platonists, urge also, that according to the Principles of Christianity it self, there must of necessity, be some Dependence and Subordination of the Persons of the Trinity, in their Relation to one another; a Priority and Posteriority, not only τάξεως, but also ἀξιώματος, of Dignity as well as Order amongst them. First, because that which is Originally of it self, and Underived from any other, must needs have some Superiority and Preheminence, over that which derives its whole Being and Godship from it; as the Second doth from the First alone, and the Third from the First with the Second. Again though all those Three Hypostases or Persons be alike Omnipotent ad Extra, or Outwards, yet ad Intra, Inwards, or within the Deity it self, are they not so: the Son being not able to beget the Father, nor the Holy Ghost to Produce either Father or Son; and therefore neither of these two Latter, is absolutely the Cause of all things, but only the First. And upon this account was that First of these Three Hypostases (who is the Original Fountain of all) by Macrobius styled, Omnipotentissimus Deus, the Most Omnipotent God: he therein implying the Second and Third Hypostases, Nous and Psyche, to be Omnipotent too, but not in a perfect Equality with him, as within the Deity they are compared together; however ad Extra, or Outwardly, and to Us, they being all One, are Equally Omnipotent. And Plotinus writeth also to the same purpose,[7] εἰ τέλειόν ἐστι τὸ πρῶτον, καὶ δύναμιϛ ἡ πρώτη, δεῖ πάντων τῶν ὄντων δυνατώτατον εἷναι, &c. If the First be absolutely Perfect, and the First Power, then must it needs be the Most Powerful of all Beings; other Powers <599> only imitating and partaking thereof. And accordingly hereunto would the Platonick Christian further pretend, that there are sundry places in the Scripture which do not a little favour, some Subordination and Priority both of Order and Dignity, in the Persons of the Holy Trinity; of which none is more obvious, than that of our Saviour Christ, My Father is greater than I: which to understand of his Humanity only, seemeth to be less reasonable; because this was no news at all, that the Eternal God, the Creator of the whole World, should be Greater than a Mortal Man, born of a woman. And thus do divers of the Orthodox Fathers; as Athanasius himself, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. Chrysostome, with several others of the Latins, interpret the same to have been spoken, not of the Humanity, but the Divinity of our Saviour Christ. Insomuch that Petavius himself,[8] expounding the Athanasian Creed, writeth in this manner, Pater Major Filio, ritè & catholicè pronuntiatus est à plerisque Veterum; & Origine Prior sine reprehensione dici solet; The Father is in a right Catholick manner, affirmed by most of the ancients, to be Greater than the Son: and he is commonly said also, without reprehension, to be Before him in respect of Original. Whereupon he concludeth the true meaning of that Creed to be this, that no Person of the Trinity, is Greater or Less than other in respect of the Essence of the Godhead common to them all, Quia Vera Deitas in nullo esse aut Minor aut Major potest, because the true Godhead can be no where Greater or Less; but that notwithstanding, there may be some Inequality in them, as they are Hic Deus, and Hæc Persona, This God and That Person. It is true indeed that many of those ancient Fathers do restrain and limit this Inequality, only to the Relation of the Persons one to another, as the Father's Begetting, and the Son's being Begotten by the Father, and the Holy Ghost Proceeding from both; they seeming to affirm, that there is otherwise a perfect Equality amongst them. Nevertheless several of them do extend this Difference further also, as for example, St. Hilary a zealous Opposer of the Arians; he in his Book of Synods writing thus; Siquis Unum dicens Deum, Christum autem Deum, ante secula Filium Dei, Obsecutum Patri in Creatione omnium, non confitetur, Anathema sit. And again, Non exæquamus vel conformamus Filium Patri, sed Subjectum intelligimus. And Athanasius himself, who is commonly accounted the very Rule of Orthodoxality in this Point, when he doth so often resemble the Father to the ἥλιος, or to the φῶς, the Sun, or the Original Light; and the Son to the ἀπαύγασμα, the Splendour or Brightness of it; (as likewise doth the Nicene Council and the Scripture it self) he seems hereby to imply some Dependence of the Second upon the First, and Subordination to it. Especially when he declareth, that the Three Persons of the Trinity, are not to be look'd upon as Three Principles, nor to be resembled to Three Suns, but to the Sun, and its Splendour, and its Derivative Light,[9] οὐδὲ γὰρ τρεῖς ἀρχὰς εἰσάγομεν, ἐπεὶ μηδὲ τριῶν ἡλίων ὑπεσθέμεθα τὴν εἰκόνα, ἀλλὰ ἥλιον καὶ ἀπαύγασμα, καὶ ἓν τὸ ἐξ ἡλιού ἐν τῷ ἀπαυγάσματι φῶς. οὕτω μίαν ἀρχὴν οἴδαμεν. For it appears from the similitude used by us, that we do not introduce Three Principles (as the Marcionists and Manicheans did) we not comparing the Trinity to Three Suns, but only to the Sun and its Splendour: So that we acknowledge only one Principle. As also where <600> he approves, of this of Dionysius of Alexandria,[10] ὁ δέ γε θεὸς αἰώνιόν ἐστι φῶς, οὔτε ἀξάμενον, οὔτε λῆξόν ποτε. οὐκοῦν αἰώνιον πρόσκειται καὶ σύνεστιν αὐτῷ τὸ ἀπαύγασμα, ἄναρχον καὶ ἀείγενες προφαινόμενον αὐτοῦ. God is an Eternal Light, which never began, and shall never cease to be; wherefore there is an Eternal Splendour also coexistent with him, which had no beginning neither, but was Alwayes Generated by him, shining out before him. For if the Son of God, be as the Splendour of the Sun ἀειγενὴς, Always Generated, then must he needs have an Essential Dependence upon the Father and Subordination to him. And this same thing further appears from those other resemblances, which the same Dionysius maketh, of the Father and the Son; approved in like manner also by Athanasius; viz. to the Fountain and the River; to the Root and the Branch; to the Water and the Vapour; for so it ought to be read ὕδατος, and not πνεύματος,[11] as appeareth from his Book of the Nicene Synod, where he affirmeth the Son to have been begotten of the Essence or Substance of the Father, ὡς τοῦ φωτὸς ἀπαύγασμα, ὡς ὕδατος ἀτμὶς, as the Splendour of the Light, and as the Vapour of the Water; adding, οὔτε γὰρ τὸ ἀπαύγασμα, οὔτε ἡ ἀτμὶς, αὐτὸ τὸ ὕδωρ ἐστὶν, ἢ αὐτὸς ὁ ἥλιος. οὔτε ἀλλότριον, ἀλλὰ ἀπόῤῥοια τῆς τοῦ πατρὸς οὐσίας. For neither the Splendour nor the Vapour, is the very Sun, and the very Water; nor yet is it Aliene from it, or a stranger to its nature; but they are both Effluxes from the Essence or Substance of them; as the Son is an Efflux from the Substance of the Father, yet so as that he is no way diminished or lessened thereby. Now all these similitudes of the Fountain and the River, the Root and the Branch, the Water and the Vapour, (as well as that of the Sun and the Splendour) seem plainly to imply some Dependence and Subordination. And Dionysius doubtless intended them to that purpose, he asserting as Photius informeth us, an Inferiority of Power and Glory in the Second, as likewise did Origen before him: both whose Testimonies notwithstanding, Athanasius maketh use of, without any censure or reprehension of them. Wherefore when Athanasius and the other Orthodox Fathers, writing against Arius, do so frequently assert the Equality of all the Three Persons, this is to be understood in way of opposition to Arius only, who made the Son to be Unequal to the Father as ἑτεροούσιον, of a different Essence from him, One being God and the other a Creature; they affirming on the contrary, that he was Equal to the Father, as ὁμοούσιος, of the same Essence with him; that is, as God and not a Creature. Notwithstanding which Equality, there might be some Subordination in them, as Hic Deus and Hæc Persona (to use Petavius his Language) This God and that Person.

And thus does there seem not to be so great a Difference, betwixt the more Genuine Platonists, and the ancient Orthodox Fathers, in their Doctrine concerning the Trinity, as is by many conceived. However our Platonick Christian would further add; that there is no necessity at all from the Principles of Platonism it self, why the Platonists should make any other or more Subordination in their Trinity, than the most severely Orthodox Fathers themselves. For according to the Common Hypothesis of the Platonists, when the Character of the First Hypostasis is supposed by them, to be Infinite Goodness; of the Second, Infinite Wisdom; and of the Third, Infinite Active Love and Power, <601> (these not as Accidents and Qualities, but as all Substantial) it is more easie to conceive, that all these are really but One and the same God, than how there should be any considerable Inferiority in them. But besides this, there is another Platonick Hypothesis (which St. Austin hinteth from Porphyrius,[12] though he professeth he did not well understand it) wherein the Third Hypostasis is made to be, a certain Middle betwixt the First and Second. And this does Proclus also sometimes follow, calling the Third in like manner, μέσην δύναμιν, a Middle Power, and σχέσιν ἀμφοῖν, the Relation of both the First and Second to one another. Which agreeth exactly with that apprehension of some Christians, that the Third Hypostasis is as it were the Nexus betwixt the First and the Second, and that Love whereby the Father and Son Love each other. Now according to this Latter Platonick Hypothesis, there would seem to be not so much a Gradation or Descent, as a kind of Circulation in the Trinity. Upon all which Considerations, the Platonick Christian will conclude, That though some Junior Platonists have adulterated the Notion of the Trinity, yet either there is no such great difference betwixt the Genuine Platonick Trinity, righty understood, and the Christian; or else that as the same might be modell'd and rectified, there need not to be.

But though the Genuine Platonists, do thus suppose the Three Hypostases of their Trinity, to be all of them, not only God, but also One God, or μία θεότης, One Entire Divinity; upon which Latter accompt the Whole may be said also by them, to have One Singular or Numerical Essence; yet notwithstanding must it be acknowledged, that they no where suppose, each of these Three Hypostases, to be Numerically the very same, or to have no Distinct Singular Essences of their own: this being in their apprehensions, directly contradictious to their very Hypothesis it self, and all one as if they should affirm them, indeed not to be Three Hypostases, but only One. Nevertheless, the Christian Platonist would here also apologize for them after this manner; That the ancient Orthodox Fathers of the Christian Church, were Generally of no other perswasion than this, that that Essence or Substance of the Godhead, which all the Three Persons or Hypostases agree in, as each of them is God, was not One Singular and Individual, but only One Common and Universal Essence or Substance: that word Substance, being used by them as Synonymous with Essence, and applied to Universals likewise, as it is by the Peripateticks, when they call A Man, or Animal in General, Substantiam Secundam, A Second Substance. Now this is Evident from hence, because these Orthodox Fathers, did commonly distinguish in this Controversie of the Trinity, betwixt Οὐσία, and Ὑπόστασις, the Essence or Substance of the Godhead, and the Hypostases or Persons themselves, after this manner; namely, that the Hypostasis or Person was Singular and Individual; but the Essence or Substance Common and Universal. Thus does Theodoret pronounce of these Fathers in general,[13] κατάγε τὴν τῶν πατέρων διδασκαλίαν, ἣν ἔχει διαφορὰν τὸ κοινὸν ὑπὲρ τὸ ἴδιον, ἢ τὸ γὲνος ὑπὲρ τὸ εἶδος ἢ τὸ ἄτομον, ταύτην ἔχει Ἡ ΟΥΣΙΆ πρὸς ΤΉ`Ν ὙΠΟ'ΣΤΑΣΙΝ. According to the Doctrine of the Fathers; as that which is Common differs from that which is Proper, and the Genus from the Species or Inviduum, so <602> doth Essence or Substance, differ from Hypostases, that is to say, that Essence or Substance of the Godhead, which is Common to all the Three Hypostases, or whereby each of them is God, was concluded by the Fathers, not to be One Singular or Individual, but One General or Universal Essence and Substance. Theodoret notwithstanding there acknowledging, that no such Distinction was observed by other Greek Writers, betwixt those two words οὐσία and ὑπόστασις, Essence or Substance and Hypostasis; as that the Former of them should be restrained to Universals only, Generical or Specifical Essences or Substances; but that this was peculiar to the Christian Fathers, in their doctrine concerning the Trinity. They in the mean time not denying, but that each Hypostasis, Prosopon, or Person, in the Trinity, might be said in another sence, and in way of Opposition to Sabellius, to have its own Singular, Individual or Existent Essence also; and that there are thus, τρεῖς οὐσίαι, Three Singular Existent Essences in the Deity, as well as τρεῖς ὑποστάσεις, Three Hypostases;[14] an Hypostasis, being nothing else to them, but an Existent Essence: however for distinctions sake, they here thought fit thus to limit and appropriate the signification of these Two words; that a Singular and Existent Essence, should not be called Essence, but Hypostasis; and by οὐσία Essence or Substance, should be meant, that General or Universal Nature of the Godhead only, which is Common to all those Three Singular Hypostases or Persons, or in which they all agree.[15] We might here heap up many more Testimonies for a further Confirmation of this; as that of St. Basil; ὃν ἔχει λόγον τὸ κοινὸν πρὸς τὸ ἴδιον, τοῦτον ἔχει ἡ οὐσία πρὸς τὴν ὑπόστασιν, What Common is to Proper, the same is Essence or Substance (in the Trinity) to the Hypostases. But we shall content our selves only, with this full acknowledgment of D. Petavius,[16] In hoc Uno Græcorum præsertim omnium judicia concordant, οὐσίαν, id est, Essentiam sive Substantiam, aut Naturam (quàm φύσιν vocant) Generale esse aliquid & Commune, ac minimè definitum, ὑπόστασιν verò Proprium, Singulare, & Circumscriptum, quod ex illo Communi, & Peculiaribus quibusdam Notis ac Proprietatibus veluti componitur. In this One Thing, do the Judgments and Opinions of all the Greeks especially agree, that Usia Essence or Substance, and Nature, which they call Physis (in the Trinity) is something General, Common and Undetermined; but Hypostasis is that which is Proper, Singular and Circumscribed; and which is as it were compounded and made up of that Common Essence or Substance, and certain Peculiar Notes and Properties, or Individuating Circumstances.

But besides this, it is further certain, that not a few of those Ancient Fathers, who were therefore reputed Orthodox, because they zealously opposed Arianism, did entertain this opinion also, That the Three Hypostases or Persons of the Trinity, had not only one General and Universal Essence of the Godhead, belonging to them all, they being all God; but were also Three Individuals, under One and the same Ultimate Species, or Specifick Essence and Substance of the Godhead; Just as Three Individual men, (Thomas, Peter and John) under that Ultimate Species of Man; or that Specifick Essence of Humanity, which have only a Numerical Difference from one another. <603> Wherefore an Hypostasis or Person (in the Trinity) was accordingly thus defined, by some of these Fathers, (viz. Anastasius and Cyril) to be, Essentia cum suis quibusdam Proprietatibus, ab iis quæ sunt ejusdem Speciei, Numero differens; an Essence or Substance, with its Certain Properties (or Individuating Circumstances) differing only Numerically from those of the same Species with it. This Doctrine was plainly asserted and Industriously pursued (besides several others both of the Greeks and Latins) especially by Gregory Nyssen, Cyril of Alexandria, Maximus the Martyr, and Damascen; whose words because Petavius hath set them down at large, we shall not here insert. Now these were they who principally insisted, upon the Absolute Co-Equality and Independent Co-Ordination, of the Three Hypostases or Persons in the Trinity, as compared with one another. Because, as Three Men, though one of them were a Father, Another a Son, and the Third a Nephew; yet have no Essential Dependence one upon another, but are Naturally Co-Equal and Unsubordinate, there being only a Numerical Difference betwixt them: so did they in like manner conclude, that the Three Hypostases or Persons of the Deity (the Father, Son and Holy Ghost) being likewise but Three Individuals, under the same Ultimate Species or Specifick Essence of the Godhead, and differing only Numerically from one another, were Absolutely Co-Equal, Unsubordinate and Independent; and this was that which was Commonly called by them, their ὁμοουσιότης, their Co-Essentiality or Con-Substantiality. Wherefore it is observable, that St. Cyril one of these Theologers, finds no other fault at all with the Platonick Trinity, but only this, that such an Homoousiotes, such a Co-Essentiality or Consubstantiality as this, was not acknowledged therein,[17] ἐλελοίπει δ ἂν πρὸς τοῦτο αὐτοῖς οὐδὲν, εἰ τὸν τῆς ὁμοουσιότητος λόγον ἐφαρμόττειν ἤθελον ὑποστάσεσι ταῖς τρισὶν, ἵνα καὶ μία νοοῖτο τῆς θεότητος φύσις, τὸ τρίχιδες οὐκ ἔχουσα πρὸς ἑτερότητα φυσικὴν, καὶ τό γε δὴ δεῖν ἀλλήλων ἐν μείοσιν ὁρᾶσθαι ὐποστάσεις. There would have been nothing at all wanting to the Platonick Trinity, for an Absolute agreement of it with the Christian, had they but accommodated the right Notion of Co-Essentiality or Con-Substantiality to their Three Hypostases; so that their might have been but one Specifick Nature or Essence of the Godhead, not further distinguishable by any Natural Diversity, but Numerically only, and so no one Hypostasis any way Inferiour or Subordinate to another. That is, had these Platonists complied with that Hypothesis of St. Cyril and others, that the Three Persons of the Trinity, were but Three Independent and Co-Ordinate Individuals, under the same Ultimate Species or Specifick Essence of the Godhead, as Peter, Paul and John, under that Species or Common Nature of Humanity, and so taken in this Co-Essentiality or Con-Substantiality of theirs, then had they been completely Orthodox. Though we have already shewed, that this Platonick Trinity, was in another sence Homoousian, and perhaps it will appear afterwards, that it was so also in the very sence of the Nicene Fathers and of Athanasius. Again these Theologers supposed, the Three Persons of their Trinity, to have really no other than a Specifick Unity or Identity; and because it seems plainly to follow from hence, that therefore they must needs be as much Three Gods as Three Men are Three Men; these learned Fathers endeavoured with their <604> Logick to prove, That Three Men, are but Abusively and Improperly so called Three; they being really & truly but One, because there is but One & the same Specifick Essence or Substance of Humane Nature in them all; and seriously perswaded men to lay aside that kind of Language. By which same Logick of theirs, they might as well prove also, that all the men in the world are but One Man, and that all Epicurus his Gods were but one God neither. But not to urge here, that according to this Hypothesis, there cannot possibly be any reason given, why there should be so many as Three such Individuals in the Species of God, which differ only Numerically from one another, they being but the very same thing thrice repeated; and yet that there should be no more than Three such neither, and not Three Hundred, or Three Thousand, or as many as there are individuals in the Species of Man; we say, not to urge this, it seems plain that this Trinity, is no other than a kind of Tritheism, and that of Gods Independent and Co-Ordinate too. And therefore some would think, that the Ancient and Genuine Platonick Trinity, taken with all its faults, is to be preferred before this Trinity of St. Cyril and St. Gregory Nyssen, and several other reputed Orthodox Fathers; and more agreeable to the Principles both of Christianity and of Reason. However it is evident from hence, that these Reputed Orthodox Fathers, who were not a few, were far from thinking the Three Hypostases, of the Trinity, to have the same Singular Existent Essence; they supposing them to have no otherwise, one and the same Essence of the Godhead in them, nor to be One God, than Three Individual Men, have one Common Specifical Essence of Manhood in them, and are all One Man. But as this Trinity came afterwards to be decried, for Tritheistick; so in the room thereof, started there up, that other Trinity of Persons Numerically the Same, or having all One and the same Singular Existent Essence; a Doctrine which seemeth not to have been owned by any publick Authority in the Christian Church, save that of the Lateran Council only.

And that no such thing was ever entertained by the Nicene Fathers and those First opposers of Arianism, might be rendered probable in the First place from the free Confession and Acknowledgment of D. Petavius, (a Person, well acquainted with Ecclesiastick Antiquity;) and for this reason especially, because many are much led, by such new Names and Authorities;[18] In eo præcipuam vim collocasse Patres, ut Æqualem Patri Naturâ, Excellentiâque Filium esse defenderent, citra expressam SINGULARITATIS mentionem, licet ex eo conjicere. Etenim Nicæni isti Præsules, quibus nemo melius Arianæ Sectæ arcana cognovit, nemo qua re opprimenda maximè foret, acrius dijudicare potuit, nihil in Professionis suæ formulâ spectarunt aliud, nisi ut Æqualitatem illam Essentiae, Dignitatis, Æternitatis astruerent. Testatur hoc ὁμοουσίου vox ipsa, quæ arx quædam fuit Catholici Dogmatis. Hæc enim Æqualitatem potius Essentiæ, quam SINGULARITATEM significat, ut Capite Quinto docui. Deinde cætera ejusdem modi sunt in illo Decreto, ut, &c. The chief force which the Ancient Fathers opposed against the Arian Hereticks, was in asserting only the Equality of the Son with the Father as to Nature or Essence, without any express mention <605> of the SINGULARITY of the same. For those Nicene Bishops, themselves, who did understand best of any, the secrets of the Arian Faction, and which way it should especially be oppugned, aimed at nothing else in their Confession of Faith, but only to establish that Equality of Essence, Dignity and Eternity between them. This does the word Homoousios it self declare, it signifying rather Equality, than SINGULARITY of Essence, as we have before showed. And the like do those other Passages in the same Decree; as, That there was no time when the Son was not, and That he was not made of nothing, Nor of a different Hypostasis or Essence. Thus does Petavius clearly confess, that this Same Singularity of Numerical Esence was not asserted by the Nicene Council nor the most Ancient Fathers, but only an Euality or Sameness of Generical Essence; or else that the Father and Son, agreed only in One Common Essence or Substance of the Godhead, that is, the Eternal and Uncreated Nature.

But the truth of this, will more fully appear, from these following Particulars. First because these Orthodox Anti-Arian Fathers, did all of zealously condemn Sabellianism; the Doctrine whereof is no other than this, that there was but one Hypostasis or Singular Individual Essence, of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and consequently that they were indeed but Three several Names, or Notions, or Modes, of one and the self same thing. From whence such Absurdities as these would follow; That the Father's Begetting the Son, was nothing but one Name, Notion, or Mode of the Deities Begetting another; or else the same Deity under one Notion, Begetting it self under another Notion. And when again the Son or Word, and not the Father, is said to have been Incarnated, and to have suffered death for us upon the Cross; that it was nothing but a meer Logical Notion or Mode of the Deity, that was Incarnate and Suffered, or else the whole Deity under one particular Notion or Mode only. But should it be averred notwithanding, that this Trinity which we now speak of, was not a Trinity of meer Names and Notions, as that of the Sabellians, but of distinct Hypostases or Persons; then must it needs follow (since every Singular Essence is an Hypostasis, according to the sence of the Ancient Fathers) that there was not a Trinity only, but a Quaternity of Hypostases, in the Deity. Which is a thing that none of those Fathers ever dream'd of.

Again the word Homoousios, as was before intimated by Petavius, was never used by Greek writers otherwise, than to signifie the Agreement of things, Numerically differing from one another, in some Common Nature, or Universal Essence; or their having a Generical Unity or Identity, of which sundry Instances might be given. Nor indeed is it likely, that the Greek Tongue should have any name for that, which neither is a thing in Nature, nor falls under Humane Conception, viz. Several Things having one and the same Singular Essence. And accordingly St. Basil interprets the force of this word thus,[19] ἀναιρεῖ τὴν ταυτότητα τῆς ὑποστάσεως οὐ γὰρ αὐτῷ τί ἐστιν ἑαυτῷ ὁμοούσιον, ἀλλ' ἑτερὸν ἑτέρῳ. That it plainly takes away the Sameness of Hypostasis, that is, of Singular Numerical Essence (this being that <606> which the ancient Fathers meant by the word Hypostasis:) For the same thing, is not Homoousios, Co-Essential or Con-Substantial with it self, but always One thing with Another. Wherefore as τὸ ὁμοούσιον and συνγένεια,[20] are used by Plotinus as Synonymous, in these words concerning the Soul, θείων μεστὴ διὰ συγγένειαν καὶ τὸ ὁμοούσιον, That it is full of Divine things, by reason of its being Cognate or Congenerous, and Homoousious with them: so doth Athanasius in like manner use them, when he affirmeth,[21] τὰ κλήματα εἶναι ὁμοουσια καὶ συγγενῆ τῆς ἀμπέλου, That the Branches are Homoousious [Co-essential or Con-substantial] and Con-generous with the Vine, or with the Root thereof. Besides which, the same Father uses, ὁμογενὴς and ὁμοειδὴς, and ὁμοφυὴς, indifferently for ὁμοούσιος, in sundry places. None of which words can be thought to signifie an Identity of Singular Essence, but only of Generical or Specifical. And thus was the word Homoousios, plainly used by the Council of Chalcedon, they affirming that our Saviour Christ was, ὁμοούσιος τῷ πατρὶ κατὰ τὴν θεότητα, καὶ ὁμοούσιος ἡμῖν κατὰ τὴν ἀνθρωπότητα, Co-Essential or Con-Substantial with the Father, as to his Divinity; but Co-Essential or Con-Substantial with us Men, as to his Humanity. Where it cannot reasonably be suspected, that one and the same word should be taken in two different sences in the same Sentence, so as in the first place to signifie a Numerical Identity, but in the second, a Generical or Specifical only. But Lastly, which is yet more, Athanasius himself speaketh in like manner of our Saviour Christ's being Homoousious with us men;[22] εἰ μὲν οὖν ὁμοούσιός ἐστιν ἡμῖν υἱὸς, καὶ τὴν αὑτὴν ἡμῖν ἔχει γένεσιν, ἔστω κατὰ τοῦτο ὁ υἱὸς ἀλλότριος κατ' οὐσίαν τοῦ πατρὸς, ὥσπερ καὶ ἠ ἄμπελος τοῦ γεωργοῦ. If the Son be Coessential or Consubstantial (or of the same Essence or Substance) with us Men, he having the very same Nature with us, then let him be in this respect a stranger to the Essence or Substance of the Father, even as the Vine is to the Essence of the Husbandman. And again a little after, in the same Epistle, ἢ λέγων μὴ εἶναι τὸν λόγον ἴδιον, τῆς τοῦ πατρὸς οὐσίας, ἐφρόνει τοῦτον ὁμοούσιον ἠμῶν εἶναι τῶν ἀνθρώπων.[23] Or did Dionysius, think you, when he affirmed the Word not to be Proper to the Essence of the Father, suppose him therefore to be Coessential or Consubstantial with us Men? From all which it is unquestionably evident, that Athanasius did not by the word Homoousios understand, That which hath the Same Singular and Numerical Essence with another, but the same Common Generical or Specifical only; and consequently, that he conceived the Son to be Coessential or Consubstantial with the Father after that manner.

Furthermore the true meaning of the Nicene Fathers, may more fully and thoroughly be perceived, by considering what that Doctrine of Arius was, which they Opposed and Condemned. Now Arius maintained, the Son or Word, to be κτίσμα a Creature, Made in Time, and Mutable or Defectible, and for that reason as Athanasius tells us, ἑτεροούσιον and ἀλλοτριούσιον, of a different Essence or Substance from the Father (That which is Created, being supposed to differ Essentially or Substantially, from that which is Uncreated.) Wherefore the Nicene Fathers, in way of Opposition to this Doctrine of Arius determined, that the Son or Word, was not thus ἑτερούσιος, <607> nor ἀλλοτριούσιος, but ὁμοούσιος τῷ πατρὶ, Coessential or Consubstantial with the Father; that is, not a Creature, but God; or agreeing with the Father in that Common Nature or Essence of the Godhead. So that this is that οὐσία, Essence or Substance of the ancient Fathers, which is said to be the Same in all the Three Hypostases of the Trinity as they are called God; not a Singular Existent Essence, but the Common, General, or Universal Essence of the Godhead, or of the Uncreated Nature, called by S. Hilary,[24] Natura Una, non Unitate Personæ, sed Generis; One Nature, not by Unity of Person, but of Kind. Which Unity of the Common or General Essence of the Godhead, is the same thing also with that Equality, which some of the Ancient Fathers so much insist upon against Arius, namely An Equality of Nature, as the Son and Father are both of them alike God, that Essence of the Godhead (which is Common to all the Three Persons) being as all other Essences, supposed to be Indivisible. From which Equality it self also does it appear, that they acknowledged no Identity of Singular Essence, it being absurd to say, that One and the self same thing, is Equal to it self. And with this Equality of Essence, did some of these Orthodox Fathers themselves imply, that a certain Inequality of the Hypostases or Persons also, in their mutual Relation to one another, might be consistent. As for example, St. Austin writing thus against the Arians,, {sic}[25] Patris, ergo & Filii, & Spiritus Sancti, etiamsi disparem cogitant Potestatem, Naturam saltem confiteantur Æqualem; Though they conceive the Power of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be Unequal, yet let them for all that, confess their Nature at least to be Equal. And St. Basil likewise,[26] Though the Son be in Order Second to the Father, because produced by him, and in Dignity also, (forasmuch as the Father is the Cause and Principle of his being) yet is he not for all that, Second in Nature, because there is One Divinity in them both. And that this was indeed the meaning, both of the Nicene Pathers {sic}, and of Athanasius, in their Homoousiotes, their Coessentiality or Con-substantiality, and Coequality of the Son with the Father; namely, their having both the same Common Essence of the Godhead; or that the Son was No Creature, as Arius contended, but truly God or Uncreated likewise, will appear undeniably, from many passages in Athanasius, of which we shall here mention only some few.[27] In his Epistle concerning the Nicene Council, he tells us, how the Eusebian Faction subscribed the Form of that Council, though afterward they recanted it, πάντων τε ὑπογγαψάντων ὑπέγραψαν καὶ οἱ περὶ Εὐσέβιον τούτοις τοῖς ῥήμασιν οἷς αἰτιῶνται νῦν οὗτοι. λέγω δὲ τῷ ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας, καὶ τῷ ὁμοουσίῳ, καὶ ὅτι μήτε κτίσμα ἢ ποίημα, μήτε τῶν γενητῶν ἐστὶν ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ υἱός. ἀλλὰ γέννημα καὶ τῆς τοῦ πατρὸς οὐσίας ὁ λόγος. All the rest subscribing, the Eusebianists themselves subscribed also to these very words, which they now find fault with; I mean Of the Essence or Substance, and Coessential or Consubstantial, and that the Son is no Creature or Facture or any of the Things Made, but the Genuine Off-spring of the Essence or Substance of the Father. Afterwards he declareth, how the Nicene Council at first, intended to have made use only of Scripture Words and Phrases, against the Arians,[28] τῆς συνόδου βουλομένης τὰς μὲν τῶν Ἀρειανῶν τῆς ἀσεβείας λέξεις ἀνελεῖν. τὰς δὲ τῶν γραφῶν ὁμολογουμένας φωνὰς γράψαι, ὅτι τε υἱός ἐστιν οὐκ ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων, ἀλλ ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ λόγος ἐστὶ καὶ σοφία, ἀλλ οὐ κτίσμα οὐδὲ ποίημα. ἲδιον δὲ <608> ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς γέννημα. As that Christ was the Son of God, and not from nothing, but from God. the Word and Wisdom of God, and consequently no Creature or thing Made. But when they perceived that the Eusebian Faction would evade all those Expressions by Equivocation, ἠναγκάσθησαν λοιπὸν λευκότερον εἰπεῖν τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ. καὶ γράψαι ἐκ τὴς οὐσίας τοῦ Θεοῦ εἶναι τὴν υἰὸν, ὑπερ τοῦ μὴ τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ κοινὸν καὶ ῖσον, τοῦ τε υἰοῦ καὶ τῶν γενητῶν νομίζεσθαι. They conceived themselves necessitated, more plainly to declare what they meant by being From God, or Out of him; and therefore added, that the Son was Out of the Substance of God, thereby to distinguish him from all Created Beings. Again a little after in the same Epistle he adds, ἡ συνοδὸς τοῦτο νοοῦσα, καλῶς ὁμοούσιον ἔγραψεν, ἴνα τήντε τῶν αἱρετικῶν κακόυθειαν ἀναστρέψωσι. καὶ δείξωσιν ἂλλον εἶναι τῶν γενητῶν τὴν λόγον. καὶ γὰρ τοῦτο γράψαντες εὐθαὶς ἐπήγαγον. τοὺς δὲ λέγοντας ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων τὴν υἱὸν τοῦ δεοῦ, ἢ υτιστόν. ἢ τρεπτόν. ἢ ποίημα. ἢ ἐξ ἑτέρας οὐσίας, τούτους ἀναθεματίζει ἡ ἁγία καὶ καθολικὴ Ἐκκλησία. The Synod perceiving this, rightly declared, that the Son was Homoousious with the Father; both to cut off the Subterfuges of Hereticks, and to show him to be different from the Creatures. For after they had decreed this, they added immediately, They who say that the Son of God, was from things that are not, or Made, or Mutable, or a Creature, or of another Substance or Essence; all such does the Holy and Catholick Church Anathematize. Whereby they made it Evident, that these Words, Of the Father, and Coessential or Consubstantial with the Father, were opposed to the Impiety of those expressions of the Arians, that the Son was a Creature, or thing Made, and Mutable, and that he was not before he was Made, which he that affirmeth contradicteth the Synod, but whosoever dissents from Arius, must needs consent to these Forms of the Synod. In this same Epistle, to cite but one passage more out of it,[29] καλκὸς, στίλβων καὶ χρυστός, &c. ἀλλ' ἑτεροφυῆ καὶ ἑτερούσια ἀλλήλων. εἰ μὲν οὖν καὶ υἱὸς οὕτως ἐστιν, ἔστω ητἰσμα ὥσπερ καὶ ἡμεῖς, καὶ μὴ ὁμοούσιος, εἰ δὲ υἰός ἐστι λόγος, σοφία, εἰκὼν τοῦ πατρὸς, ἀπαύγασμα, εἰκότως ὁμοούσιος ἀν εἴη. Brass and Gold, Silver and Tin are alike in their shining and colour, nevertheless in their Essence and Nature, are they very different from one another. If therefore the Son be such, then let him be a Creature as we are, and not Coessential (or Consubstantial) but if he be a Son, the Word, Wisdom, Image of the Father, and his Splendour, then of right should he be accounted Coessential and Consubstantial. Thus in his Epistle concerning Dionysius,[30] we have ἕνα τῶν γενητῶν εἶναι τὴν υἱὸν, and μὴ ὁμοούσιον τῷ πατρὶ, The Son's being one of the Creatures, and his not being Coessential or Consubstantial with the Father put for Synonymous expressions, which signifie one and the samething.

Wherefore it semeeth to be unquestionably evident, that when the Ancient Orthodox Fathers of the Christian Church, maintained against Arius, the Son to be Homoousion, Coessential or Consubstantial with the Father, though that word be thus interpreted, Of the same Essence or Substance, yet they Universally understood thereby, not a Sameness of Singular and Numerical, but of Common or Universal Essence only; that is, the Generical or Specifical Essence of the Godhead; that the Son was no Creature, but truly and properly God. But if it were needful, there might be yet more Testimonies cited out of <609> Athanasius to this purpose. As from his Epistle De Synodis Arimini & Seleuciæ,[31] where he writeth thus, concerning the Difference betwixt those Two words Ὁμοιούσιον, of Like Substance, and Ὁμοούσιον, Of the Same Substance. Οἴδατε γὰρ καὶ ὑμεῖς ὅτι τὸ ὅμοιον οὐκ ἐπὶ τῶν οὐσιῶν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐπὶ σχημάτων καὶ ποιοτήτων λέγεται ὅμοιον. ἐπὶ γὰρ τῶν οὐσιῶν οὐχ Ὁμοιότης, ἀλλὰ ταυτότης ἂν λεχθείη. ἄνθρωπος γοῦν ἀνθρῶπῳ ὅμοιος λέγεται οὐ κατὰ τὴν οὐσίαν --- τῇ γὰρ οὐσίᾳ Ὁμοφυεῖς εἰσι. καὶ πάλιν ἄνθρωπος κυνὶ οὐκ Ἀνόμοιος λέγεται ἀλλ Ἑτεροφυής. Οὐκοῦν Τὸ Ὁμοφυὲς καὶ Ὁμοούσιον, Τὸ δὲ Ἑτεροφυὲς καὶ ἑτερούσιον. For even your selves know that Similitudes is not Predicated of Essences or Substances, but of Figures and Qualities only. But of Essences or Substances, Identity or Sameness is affirmed and not Similitude. For a man is not said to be Like to a man, in respect of the Essence or Substance of Humanity, but only as to Figure or Form: they being said as to their Essence to be Congenerous, of the same Nature or Kind with one another. Nor is a man properly said, to be Unlike to a Dog, but of a Different Nature or Kind from him. Wherefore that which is Congenerous, of the same Nature, Kind, or Species, is also Homoousion, Coessential or Consubstantial (of the same Essence or Substance) and that which is of a different Nature, Kind, or Species, is Heterousion, (of a different Essence or Substance.) Again Athanasius in that Fragment of his Against the Hypocrisie of Meletius, &c. concerning Consubstantiality writeth in this manner; Ὁ τοίνυν ἀναιρῶν Τὸ εἶναι τὸν υἱὸν ὁμοούσιον τῷ πατρὶ, λέγων δὲ ὅμοιον, ἀναιρεῖ τὸ εἶναι Θεὸν. ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ ὁ ἐξηγούμενος Τὸ Ὁμοούσιον, ὡς ὅμοιον τῇ οὐσίᾳ ἑτέραν τὴν οὐσίαν λέγει, Θεῷ δὲ ὁμοιωμένην. οὐ τοίνυν οὐδὲ τὸ ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας εἶναι πρεπόντῳς λέγει μὴ φρονῶν ὁμοούσιον, ῶς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τῆς ἀνθρώπου οὐσίας. εἰ δὲ μὴ ὡς ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ἀνθρώπου κατὰ οὐσίαν, ἐκ Θεοῦ ὁ υἱὸς, ἀλλ ὠς ἐν ὁμοιώματι καθάπερ ἀνδριὰς ἀνθρώπῳ. ἢ ὠς ἄνθρωπος Θεῷ, δῆλός ἐστιν ὁ τοιοῦτος ὁμοούσιον μὲν λέγων, ὁμοούσιον δὲ οὐ φρονῶν. Οὐ γὰρ κατὰ τὴν συνήθειαν βούλεται Τὸ Ὁμοούσιον ἀκούεσθαι, ὅπερ ἐστὶν, περὶ μιᾶς καὶ τῆς αὺτῆς οὐσίας. ἀλλὰ παρὰ τὴν συνήθειαν, καὶ ἵνα διαβάλλῃ ταύτὴν, Ἑλλὴνικὴν ῥῆσιν εἰρηκέναι τὸ ὁμοούσιον ῥῆμα τοῦ ἐν Ἕλλησιν ἔθους ἐπ᾽ οὐδενὶ ἑτέρῳ κείμενον ἢ ἐπὶ τὴν αὐτὴν φύσιν παραστῆσαι, &c. He that denies the Son to be Homoousion, Consubstantial with the Father, affirming him only to be like to him, denies him to be God. In like manner, he who reteining the word Homousion or Consubstantial, interprets it notwithstanding only of Similitude or Likeness in Substance, affirmeth the Son to be of Another Different Substance from the Father, and therefore not God; but like to God only. Neither doth such a one rightly understand those words, Of the Substance of the Father, he not thinking the Son to be so Consubstantial, or of the Essence and Substance of the Father, as one man is Consubstantial, or Of the Essence or Substance of another who begat him. For he who affirmeth that the Son is not so Of God, as a man is Of a man, according to Essence or Substance; but that he is Like him only, as a Statue is like a Man or as a Man may be Like to God, it is manifest that such a one, though he use the word Homoousios,, {sic} yet he doth not really mean it. For he will not understand it according to the customary signification thereof, for that which hath One and the Same Essence or Substance; this word being used by Greeks and Pagans in no other sence, than to signifie that which hath the Same Nature; as we ought to believe concerning the Father Son and Holy Ghost. Where we see plainly, that though the word Homoousios; be interpreted, That which hath One and the Same <610> Essence or Substance, yet is this understood of the Same Common Nature, and as one man is of the same Essence or Substance with another. We might here also add to this, the concurrent testimonies of the other Orthodox Fathers, but to avoid tediousness we shall omit them, and only insert some passages out of St. Austin to the same purpose. For he in his First Book Contra Maxim. Chap. the 15. writeth thus, Duo veri Homines, etsi nullus eorum Filius sit Alterius, Unius tamen & Ejusdem sunt Substantiæ. Homo autem alterius Hominis Verus filius nullo modo potest nisi Ejusdem cum Patre esse Substantiæ, etiamsi non sit per omnia Similis Patri. Quocirca Verus Dei Filius, & Unius cum Patre Substantiæ est, quia Verus Filius est; & per omnia est Patri similis, quia est Dei Filius. Two True men, though neither of them be Son to the other, yet are they both of One and the Same Substance. But a man who is the true Son of another man, can by no means be of a Different Substance from his Father, although he be not in all respects like unto him. Wherefore the true Son of God, is both of one Substance with the Father, because he is a true Son, and he is also in all respects like to him, because he is the Son of God. Where Christ or the Son of God, is said to be no otherwise, of One Substance with God the Father, than here amongst men, the Son is of the same Substance with his Father, or any one man with another.[32] Again the same S. Austin in his Respons. ad Sermonem Arianorum, expresseth himself thus: Ariani nos vocitant Homoousianos, quia contra eorum errorem, Græco vocabulo ὁμοούσιον defendimus, Patrem, Filium; & Spiritum Sanctum; id est, Unius Ejusdemque Substantiæ, vel ut expressiùs dicamus Essentiæ (quæ οὐσίαGræcè appellatur) quod planiùs dicitur Unius Ejusdemque Naturæ. Et tamen siquis istorum qui nos Homoousianos vocant, Filium suum non cujus ipse esset, sed Diversæ diceret esse Naturæ, Exhæredari ab ipso mallet Filius, quam hoc putarí. Quanta igitur impietate isti cæcantur, qui cum confiteantur Unicum Dei Filium, nolunt Ejusdem Naturæ cujus Pater est confiteri; sed diversæ atque imparis, & multis modis rebusque dissimilis, tanquam non de Deo Natus, sed ab illo de Nihilo sit Creatus; Gratiâ Filius, non Naturâ. The Arians call us Homoousians, because in opposition to their Errour we defend the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, to be in the Language of the Greeks Homoousious, that is of One and the Same Substance; or to speak more clearly Essence, this being in Greek called Usiah, which is yet more plainly thus expressed, of One and the Same Nature. And yet there is none of their own Sons, who thus call us Homoousians, who would not as willingly be disinherited, as be accounted of a Different Nature from his Father. How great impiety therefore are they blinded with, who though they acknowledge that there is One only Son of God; yet will not confess him, to be of the same Nature with his Father, but different and unequal and many ways unlike him, as if he were not Born of God, but Created out of Nothing by him, himself being a Creature; and so a Son, not by Nature but Grace only. Lastly (to name no more places) in his First Book De Trinitate, he hath these words. Si Filius Creatura non est, ejusdem cum Patre Substantiæ est. Omnis enim Substantia quæ Deus non est Creatura est: & quæ Creatura non est, Deus est. Et si non est Filius ejusdem Substantiæ cujus est Pater, ergo Facta Substantia est. If the Son be not a Creature, then is he of the <611> same Substance with the Father; for whatever Substance is not God, is Creature, and whatever is not Creature is God. And therefore if the Son be not of the Same Substance with the Father, he must needs be a Made and Created Substance, and not truly God.

Lastly, that the ancient Orthodox Fathers, who used the word Homoousios against Arius, intended not therein to assert the Son to have One and the same Singular or Individual Essence with the Father, appeareth plainly from their disclaiming and disowning those two words Ταυτοούσιον and Μονοούσιον. Concerning the Former of which, Epiphanius thus;[33] Καὶ οὐ λέγομεν Ταυτοούσιον, ἵνα μὴ ἡ λέξις παρά τισι λεγομένη, Σαβελλίῳ ἀπεικασθῇ. ταυτὸν δὲ λέγομεν τῇ θεότητι, καὶ τῇ οὐσίᾳ, καὶ τῇ δυνάμει. We affirm not the Son to be Tautoousion (One and the same Substance with the Father) lest this should be taken in way of compliance with Sabellius; nevertheless do we assert him to be, the Same, in Godhead, and in Essence, and in Power. Where it is plain, that when Epiphanius affirmed the Son to be the same with the Father in Godhead and Essence, he understood this only, of a Generical or Specifical, and not of a Singular or Individual Sameness; namely, that the Son is no Creature, but God also as the Father is; and this he intimates to be the true and genuine sence of the word Homoousios: he therefore rejecting that other word Tautoousios, because it would be liable to misinterpretation, and to be taken in the Sabellian sence, for that which hath One and the Same Singular and Individual Essence, which the word Homoousios could not be obnoxious to. And as concerning that other word Monoousios, Athanasius himself, in his Exposition of Faith, thus expresly condemns it,[34] οὔτε γὰρ υἰοπατέρα φρονοῦμεν, ὡς οἱ Σαβέλλιοι Μονοούσιον καὶ οὐχ Ὁμοούσιον, We do not think the Son to be really One and the Same with the Father, as the Sabellians do, and to be Monoousios and not Homoousios; they thereby destroying the very being of the Son. Where Usia, Essence or Substance, in that Fictitious word Monoousios, is taken for Singular or Existent Essence, the whole Deity being thus said by Sabellius, to have only One Singular Essence or Hypostasis in it: whereas in the word Homoousios, is understood a Common or Universal, Generical or Specifical Essence; the Son being thus said to agree with the Father, in the Common Essence of the Godhead, as not being a Creature. Wherefore Athanasius here disclaimeth a Monoousian Trinity, as Epiphanius did before, a Tautoousian; both of them a Trinity of meer Names, and Notions, or Inadequate Conceptions of One and the Same Singular Essence or Hypostasis; they alike distinguishing them, from the Homoousian Trinity, as a Trinity of Real Hypostases or Persons, that have severally their Own Singular Essence, but agree in one Common and Universal Essence of the Godhead, they being none of them Creatures but all Uncreated or Creators. From whence it is plain, that the ancient Orthodox Fathers, asserted no such thing, as One and the Same Singular or Numerical Essence, of the several Persons of the Trinity; this according to them, being not a Real Trinity, but a Trinity of meer Names, Notions, and Inadequate Conceptions only; which is thus disclaimed and declared against by Athanasius, Τριὰς δέ ἐστιν οὐχ ἕως ὀνόματος μόνου, καὶ φαντασίᾳ λέξεως, ἀλλὰ ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ὑπάρξει Τριάς, The <612> Trinity, is not a Trinity of meer Names and Words only, but of Hypostases, truely and really Existing. But the Homoousian Trinity, of the Orthodox, went exactly in the Middle, betwixt that Monoousian Trinity of Sabellius, which was a Trinity of different Notions or Conceptions only of One and the Self-Same Thing, and that other Heteroousian Trinity of Arius, which was a Trinity of Separate and Heterogeneous Substances (one of which only was God, and the other Creatures) this being a Trinity, of Hypostases or Persons, Numerically differing from one another, but all of them agreeing, in one Common or General Essence of the Godhead or the Uncreated Nature, which is Eternall, and Infinite. Which was also thus particularly declared by Athanasins {sic},[35] οὔτε ἔλαττόν τι φρονεῖ ἡ καθολικὴ Ἐκκλησία, ἵνα μὴ εἰς τοὺς νῦν κατὰ Καιάφαν Ἰουδαίους, καὶ εἰς Σαβέλλιον περιπέσῃ. οὔτε πλεῖον ἐπινοεῖ, ἳνα μὴ εἰς τὴν Ἑλλὴνικὴν πολυθεότητα κατακυλισθῇ. The Catholick Church doth neither believe less than this Homoousian Trinity, lest it should comply with Judaism, or sink into Sabellianism; nor yet more than this, lest on the other hand, it should tumble down into Arianism, which is the same with Pagan Polytheism and Idolatry; it introducing in like manner, the worshipping of Creatures, together with the Creator.

And now upon all these Considerations, our Platonick Christian would conclude, that the Orthodox Trinity of the ancient Christian Church, did herein agree with the Genuinely Platonick Trinity, that it was not Monoousian; One Sole Singular Essence, under Three Notions, Conceptions, or Modes only; but Three Hypostases or Persons. As likewise the right Platonick Trinity, does agree with the Trinity of the ancient Orthodox Christians in this, that it is not Heteroousian but Homoousian, Coessential or Consubstantial; none of their Three Hypostases being Creatures or Particular Beings, made in Time; but all of them Uncreated, Eternal, and Infinite.

[1] P. 34.

[2] Enn. 5. L. 1. c. 2.

[3] Tom. 1. p. 557.

[4] P. 483.

[5] Instit. L. 4. c. 29.

[6] De Sent. Dionys. p. 556.

[7] P. 517.

[8] De Trin. p. 363

[9] Cont. Ar. Or. 4. p. 467.

[10] P. 565.

[11] P. 275.

[12] D. Civ. D. L. 10. c. 23. Cum dicit Medium, non Postponit, sed Interponit.

[13] Dial. 1. adv. Hær.

[14] Greg. Nyssen. Adv. Eunom. L. 12.

[15] Ep. 369.

[16] De Trin. L. 4. c. 7.

[17] Cont. Jul. L. 8. p. 270.

[18] De Trin. L. 4. c. 13.

[19] In Epist.

[20] En. 4: L. 7. c. 10.

[21] Epist. de Sent. Dion. p. 556.

[22] Tom. 1. p. 556.

[23] Thus also in his 1. Epist. to Serap. ἄνθρωποι γ᾽ οὖν ὅμοιοι καὶ τὴν ὅμοιοι καὶ τὴν ταυτότητα ἔχοντες ὁμοούσιοί ἐσμεν ἀλλήλων. We Men being alike and having the Sameness of the Nature, are Con-Substantial with one another. And P. 170. ὥσπερ οὖν μαινοπ' ἄν τις λέγων, τὴν οἰκίαν ὁμοούσιον τοῦ οἰκοδόμου, καὶ τὸ σκάφος τοῦ ναυπηγοῦ, οὕτως πρεπόντως ἄν τις εἴποι πάντα ὑιὸν ὁμοούσιον εἶναι τοῦ ἑαυτοῦ πατρὸς. It were madness to say, that a House is Coessential or Con-substantial with the Builder, or a Ship-wright; but it is proper to say, that every Son is Coessential or Consubstantial with his Father.

[24] De Synodis.

[25] Cont. Serm. Arian. c. 18.

[26] 3. Cont. Eunom.

[27] P. 251.

[28] P. 267.

[29] P. 272.

[30] P. 561.

[31] P. 929.

[32] To the same purpose is that in his Second Book ch. 6. Diversa quidem Substantia est Deus Pater, & Homo Mater: non tamen diversa Substantia est Deus Pater & Deus Filius: sicut non est diversa Substantia, Homo Mater, & Homo Filius.

[33] Hær. 76. N. 7.

[34] P. 241.

[35] Ad Serap. Ep. p. 202.

Cite as: Ralph Cudworth, The True Intellectual System of the Universe: The First Part (1678), pp. 591-612,, accessed 2020-10-21.