The Nestorians and their Rituals/Volume 2/Appendix B/Part 3

PART III.

ON THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION.

CHAPTER I.

On the advent of Christ, and of His union [of the divine with the human nature.]

Justice is an universal benefit, since whatsoever man would have others do to him, justice demands that he should do to them; and whatsoever he would not have men do to him, let him not do the same to them. This is the Law and the Prophets, as saith the Saviour. But as the prophets could not hereby reduce to perfect order the lives of men, and bring them to a knowledge of the truth by causing them to forego idols and follow the divine commands, in order that they might be saved, there remained no other way for the renewal of our nature, and for the reformation of our lives, but that God should appear in the world. Like a sovereign, who having sent many messengers to dispense the affairs of his kingdom, and to put in order those whom he would reconcile, if these should be overcome because of their weakness, and be unable to effect any thing, he goes in person to put those of that country in order. But since God is invisible, and because were it possible for Him to appear to the created as He is, all men would be destroyed by the effulgence of His brightness; therefore He took to Himself a man for His habitation, and made him His temple, and the place of His abiding, and thus united an offspring of mortal nature to His Divinity, in an everlasting, indissoluble union, and made it a co-partaker of His sovereignty, authority, and dominion.—That is, the Divine Essence enlightened the human nature by its union therewith, as the pure and faultless jewel is enlightened by the rays of the sun falling upon it, causing the nature of that which is enlightened to be like the nature of that which enlightened it, and causing the sight to be affected by the rays and brightness pertaining to the nature of that which received, as it is by the nature of that which communicated, the light, no change whatever taking place in the agent by his action on that which was acted upon. And, again, just as speech hidden in the soul is united to written discourse by the consent of the mind, and is transmitted from one spot to another without itself moving, from its place,—so the Word of the Father united with the man of us, through the mind, and came into this our world, without, in His self-existence, leaving the Father:—"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." A devout and pious man laboured for many years in prayer to God, that He would disclose to him the meaning of this declaration. A voice from heaven was at length vouchsafed to him, saying: "Ascribe to the flesh the word 'became,' and to the 'Word' ascribe 'dwelt among us.'" Such was the answer.


CHAPTER II.

On the life and actions of Christ.

When the angel saluted the Blessed Virgin, saying: "the Lord be with thee; blessed art thou among women;" God the Word, beyond all doubt, united Himself at that moment with that which He formed simultaneously, and without human seed, in the womb of the Holy Virgin, and to which He gave the name of the "Highest;" at whose birth, also. He wrought miracles, and diffused joy over the whole world, and endued It with perfect wisdom, grace and stature. And when He had attained the age of thirty years, in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Cæsar, and the three hundred and forty-first of Alexander, He presented Himself to the baptism of John. Not that His purity needed a baptism of water; but in order that He might become a pattern and example to us in every thing. He was baptized, and He commanded that we should be baptized. He fasted, and directed us to fast. He prayed and taught us to pray. He humbled Himself, and instructed us to be humble. He was lowly in the exercise of every virtue, and enjoined us to be lowly.—"Whosoever shall do and teach these things, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

And after having wrought signs and wonders in the land of Judah, such as, the healing of the sick, the raising of the dead, the opening of the blind eyes, the making the lame to walk, casting out devils, and revealing hidden mysteries. He drew near to the time when He was to pay the debt of the first Adam's transgression, and to cancel the writing of condemnation against his race, and to reveal, by an example, the mystery of the general resurrection. He suffered, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, He died, and was buried, and rose again on the third day, as it is written. After His resurrection. He appeared to His disciples through many signs during the space of forty days, saying unto them: "All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth. As My Father, hath sent Me, even so send I you. Go and disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and, behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." "And He brought them out to Bethany, and lifted up His hands and blessed them; and, as He blessed them. He separated from them, and ascended up to heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. Then the disciples went forth and preached in every place, the Lord helping them, and confirming their words by the miracles which they wrought." This is the origin of Christianity; its truth we shall establish in the following chapter.


CHAPTER III.

On the truth of Christianity.

Christianity is the belief in One Divine Essence, in Three Persons, and the confession of Christ as has already been explained, and the belief in a resurrection of the dead, and a judgment to come, and a new and eternal life, all which articles of faith are spiritual and unworldly. For the rational soul has a threefold power, lust, anger, and discriminating judgment, from the excess or the want of a due proportion of which, evil acts and follies proceed, and from the harmony of which proceed virtues. Our Gospel, however, inculcates with regard to each of these what is superior to nature. Thus, with regard to lust, Christ saith: "Whosoever shall look upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart." Again: "Be ye like the birds of heaven, and like the flowers of the field." And, again: "Take no thought for the morrow." Of anger. He saith: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and do good to them that despitefully use you." Of discriminating judgment; that the kingdom of God is life everlasting, and everlasting life is a knowledge of the truth:—"This is eternal life, to know Thee the Only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." "What exalted doctrine is this! and what truth can be superior to this, or more certain?

The truth of Christianity is indicated by this also, that like philosophy, it is divided into theory and practice. The end of its theory is truth, as we have already shown, and shall yet further show; and the end of its practice is virtue, as we proved by what we said of the powers of the soul, in regard of which it demands purity of thought, and the sanctification of the spirit, and enjoins good to be done to evil-doers, the love of our enemies, and that we should bless those who curse us.

The truth of the Christian religion is still further established by the credibility of those who preached it,—who preached and wrote of Christ,—men, who without exercising any compulsion, and without holding out any lure, were received by people of various tongues, by kings, sages, and philosophers; for whosoever abandons the religion of his forefathers, and follows him who calls him to embrace another, must do so either from fear, or because of the allurement held out to him, or he is led by the supernatural signs and wonders by which it is attested. But the blessed Apostles had neither weapons nor soldiery to terrify any; neither had they possessions or riches wherewith to allure; it results, then, that the world bowed to listen to them on account of the supernatural signs and wonders which they wrought. But God does not work miracles by the hands of false men, lest they should cause His servants to err, and corrupt the work of His hands. The Apostles, therefore, were true and not false men; and if they were true, those things which we confess of Christ, and which we have received from their preaching and writings, the Christian Church holds to be true, because those who delivered them were true.


CHAPTER IV.

On the different Sects.

When the light of Christ's brightness, shed abroad by these preachers, had scattered the darkness of error from the face of the world, idolatry ceased, and the worship of pictures and molten images passed away, and the earth was cleansed from the abomination of sacrifices and unclean rites, and the inhabitants of the world learned goodness, holiness, humility, and gentleness, and the earth was full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. This filled Satan with envy and rage, and he forthwith proceeded to act towards us as he had acted towards Adam; so that after the Apostles, and their disciples, and their immediate successors, had slept. Christians rose up against each other, and divisions and controversies sprung up among them, and heresies without number increased in the Church of Christ, until they went so far as to compass each other's destruction, and regarded each other as infidels deserving of death. How many false doctrines were rife, and how many crimes were perpetrated in those days, we learn from the histories of Mar Eusebius. On account of these things, the Œcumenical Council of the 318 was convened, by order of the good and Christ-loving Emperor and Saint Constantine, in the year of Alexander 636, and by the power of the Spirit, and by proofs adduced from the Holy Scriptures, they decreed, interpreted, enlightened, disclosed, manifested, and confirmed, the orthodox faith; and by strong argument, and with words of sound doctrine, they condemned all the heresiarchs, excommunicated and cut them off from the body of Christ, as being diseased members not susceptible of cure. And thus the Catholic Church was purified from every stain of vain worship and false doctrine, and all the world, from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, was of one mind, and of one Church.

About one hundred years after this a dispute arose between Cyril Patriarch of Alexandria, and Mar Nestorius Patriarch of Byzantium, respecting the Incarnate Word. In the confession of the Trinity all Christians agree, for all receive the Nicene Creed, which creed confesses that the Trinity is co-equal in essence, dignity, power and will; and all confess of Christ that He is perfect God and perfect Man, being fully persuaded thereof by the declarations of the Gospels, of Saint Paul, and of the 318 Fathers. The dispute which now arose respected the manner of the Union, and the words used to express it. Cyril maintained that we ought to call the Virgin "Mother of God," and wrote twelve Sentences excommunicating all who should, in any way, draw a distinction between the divinity and humanity of Christ after the union. Nestorius replied to these Sentences, and showed that they were erroneous, and with respect to the appellation "Mother of God," he argued that it did not exist either in the writings of the Prophets or Apostles. The Prophets prophesied of Christ to come, and the Apostles preached of that same Christ, predicted by the Prophets as coming into the world, that this was He Who was born of Mary. Now, were we to use the expression "Mother of Man' only, we should be like Paul of Samosata, and Photinus of Galatia, who said of our Lord that He was but a mere man like one of the prophets, and on this account they were excommunicated; so if we use the bare expression "Mother of God," we become like Simon and Menander, who say that God did not take a body from Mary; but that His life and actions were in appearance only and not real, and on that account they also were excommunicated. But we call the Virgin "Mother of Christ," the name used by Prophets and Apostles, and which denotes the union generally. Cyril, in the Sentences which he drew up, and in which he excommunicated all who shall distinguish between the divinity and humanity of Christ, virtually excommunicates the Holy Scriptures, since the Apostles and Prophets do distinguish between the natures of the Person respecting Whom the dispute is, and from these the holy Fathers learnt to confess of Christ, that He is perfect God and perfect Man, the Likeness of God and the likeness of a servant, the Son of David and the Son of the Highest, flesh and Word.

From this time commenced the division of the Church; some followed Nestorius, whilst others went after Cyril, both parties mutually anathematizing each other; from which resulted sects, and the slaughter, exile, imprisonment, and persecution of the Fathers, such as had never been before, as is fully recorded in the histories of Irenæus, Bishop of Tyre. After this, tumult and discord went on increasing until the zealous and Christ-loving Marcian undertook to convene the great Council of the 632 in the town of Chalcedon, and commanded that both parties should be examined and judged, and that whosoever did not follow the truth and faith as declared by this Council should be expelled the Church, in order that the Church might be united in one perfect agreement. This Council confirmed the confession, that there are two natures in Christ, distinct in the attributes of each, and also two wills, and anathematized all who should speak of mixture, which destroys the two natures. But because in Greek there is no difference between the meaning of the word Person and Parsopa, they confessed but one Person in Christ. And when the party of Cyril was not satisfied with the expression "two Natures," and the party of Nestorius with the expression "one Person," an imperial edict was issued declaring all who did not consent to this doctrine degraded from their dignity. Some were made to submit through compulsion; but the remainder maintained their own opinions.

Christianity thus became divided into three sects: the first confessing One Nature and One Person in Christ, which doctrine is held by the Copts, Egyptians, and Abyssinians, after the tradition of Cyril their Patriarch; and this is called the Jacobite sect, from a certain Syrian doctor called Jacob, who laboured zealously to spread the doctrines of Cyril among the Syrians and Armenians.

The second sect are those who confess the doctrine of two natures and one Person in Christ, and these are called "Melchites," because it was imposed forcibly by the king. This is the doctrine which is received by the Romans called Franks, and by the Constantinopolitans who are Greeks, and by all the people of the West, such as the Russians, Alani, Circassians, Assaï, [?] Georgians, and their neighbours. But the Franks differ from the rest of these in maintaining that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and in their use of unleavened bread in the Lord's Supper. These two sects accepted the appellation "Mother of God;" but the Jacobites have added to the canon: "Holy God," &c. "Who wast crucified for us."

The third sect which confesses two Natures and two Persons in Christ is called the sect of the Nestorians. As to the Easterns, however, because they never changed their faith, but kept it as they received it from the Apostles, they were unjustly styled "Nestorians," since Nestorius was not their Patriarch, neither did they understand his language; but when they heard that he taught the doctrine of the two Natures and two Persons, one Son of God, one Christ, and that he confessed the orthodox faith, they bore witness to him, because they themselves held the same faith. Nestorius, then, followed them, and not they him, and that more especially in the matter of the appellation "Mother of Christ." Therefore when called upon to excommunicate him, they refused, maintaining that their excommunication of Nestorius would be equivalent to their excommunication of the Sacred Scriptures and the holy Apostles, from which they received what they professed, and for which we are censured together with Nestorius, as shall appear in the following chapter.


CHAPTER V.

Refutation of the foregoing Creeds.

After having carefully distinguished the above Creeds, we shall now briefly refute two of them.

First: If it is right to believe that there is but one nature and one Person in Christ after the union, either the human nature and person are destroyed through the union;—here is destruction, not salvation. Or, the Divine Nature and Person are destroyed;—a monstrous profanity. Or, the two natures and two persons were mingled and confounded together;—behold hence a corruption! neither divinity nor humanity any longer existing. Mar Yohanan bar Pinkhâyé adduced the name of Christ, written with black and red ink, by way of illustrating this confused union which the Jacobites believe, and the union of adherence which we believe; thus, CHRIST, behold corruption! behold confusion! Is it red ink? It is not. Is it black ink? It is not. Now look at this CHRIST behold beauty! behold light! Is it black ink? It is. Is it red ink? It is.

Secondly: The Divine Nature and Person, before and after the union, is an eternal, uncompounded Spirit. But the human nature and person is a temporal and compound body. Now, if the union destroys the attributes which distinguish the natures and persons in Christ, either the one or the other of these becomes a nonentity, or they become a thing which is neither God nor man. But if the union does not destroy the attributes which distinguish the natures and persons in Christ; then Christ must exist in two natures and two persons, which united in the Parsopa of the Filiation.

Thirdly, the Gospel declares, that the infant Christ "increased in stature, and in wisdom, and in favour with God and man." And the Apostle Peter says: "Jesus, a Man of God, approved among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you." And, again, S. Paul, the master-builder of the Church testifies, that "there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus." These three quotations most clearly affirm of Christ, after the union, that He existed in two natures and two persons, and whosoever shall dispute these testimonies is far removed from all truth.


CHAPTER VI.

On the title "Mother of God."

First: If the Virgin is the "Mother of God," and we understand by the word "God," Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; then she brought forth the Trinity, and not the one only Son.

Secondly: If the Virgin is the "Mother of God," and if He whom she brought forth suffered, died, and was buried, as the four Evangelists testify, either ye hold that He died in reality, (and he who really dies has no power whatever to revivify others or himself, but must remain in death for ever,) and thus ye declare false the saying that He rose again: Or, ye hold that He died in appearance only, and in the same way rose again, (in which case He could not have arisen in reality, seeing that He did not die in reality;) then the hope of the resurrection is vain, since hereby the saying that "He hath raised us up with Christ" is made void.

Thirdly: If Mary is the "Mother of God," and Peter testifieth of Him whom she brought forth, saying: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God;" then, according to you, she is not the Mother of Christ, but the mother of His Father, and Christ is her grandson, not her Son, and she is the mother of His Father. Where, then, is the mother of Christ?


CHAPTER VII.

Of four Persons.

First. If by our confession of Two Persons in Christ there result four Persons in the Trinity; then, by your confession of two natures in Christ there must equally result two natures in the Deity.

Secondly. If the Trinity, as is admitted by all, is eternal and uncompounded, and the human person temporal and compound, how can this, in any way, be considered as a fourth person to That?

Thirdly. If we maintained two Sons in Christ, this charge might justly be brought against us; because the Father and the Spirit, with these two Sons, would make four persons. But seeing that we confess but one Son, one Christ, one Parsopa, we have no fear of being guilty of blasphemy.


CHAPTER VIII.

Of the Church.

The term "Church" imports a congregation, and an assembly met together to unite in acts of celebration. It is a model of things above; for as the nine orders which minister to the Most High are divided into three degrees, just so the Church, The Patriarchs, Metropolitans, and Bishops, occupy the place of the Cherubim, Seraphim, and Thrones; the Archdeacons, Deans, and Presbyters, the place of the Dominions, Virtues, and Powers; the Deacons, Subdeacons, and Readers, the place of the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. The name "Church," as we have said, has this signification; for Christ does not call material foundations and stones "a Church," but the congregation which believes in Him. The nave and the altar are called the Church metaphorically, just as the people of a city are called by the name of the city, as when it is said: "all the city went out to meet Jesus." And just as the city itself is often called by the name of the city, as when it is said; "He entered into the city."