A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Arians

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ARIANS, a denomination, which arose about the year 315, and owed its origin to Arius, presbyter of Alexandria, a man of a subtle turn, and remarkable for his eloquence. He maintained that the Son was totally and essentially distinct from the Father; that he was the first and noblest of all those beings whom God the Father had created out of nothing, the instrument by whose subordinate operation the Almighty Father formed the universe, and therefore inferiour to the Father both in nature and dignity. He added, that the holy Spirit was of a different nature from that of the Father and of the Son, and that he had been created by the Son. However, during the life of Arius, the disputes turned principally on the divinity of Christ.

The original Arians were divided among themselves, and torn into factions, regarding each other with the bitterest aversion, of whom the ancient writers make mention under the names of Semi-Arians, Eusebians, Aetians, Eunomians, Acacians, Psatyrians, and others, most of which are described in this work under their respective heads.

The modern Arians, to prove the subordination and inferiority of Christ to God the Father, argue thus: There are various passages of scripture where the Father is styled the one, or only God. Why callest thou me good ? There is none good but one, that is God. (Matt. xix. 17.) The Father is styled God with peculiarly high titles and attributes. (See Matt, xxiii. 9.—Mark v. 7. &c.) It is said in Ephesians iv. 6. There is one God and Father of all, who h above all. Our Lord Jesus Christ expressly speaks of another God distinct from himself. See Matt. xxvii. 46.—John xx. 17.) He not only owns another than himself to be God, but also that he is above and over himself. He declares that his Father is greater than he, John xiv. 28. Our Lord also says, He came not in his own but in his Father's name and authority; that he sought not his own, but God's glory ; nor made his own, but God's will his rule. See John vi. 38 ; xii. 49; xiv. 10.

In the solemn prayer, uttered by our Lord just before his crucifixion, he declares, This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. John xvii. 3. Our Lord addresses one person, calling that person The only true God. That this person addressed was the Father, is evident from the commencement of the prayer, Father, the hour is come, (verse 1.) and from the repetition of the title Father in several of the subsequent verses (verse 5, 11, 21, 24, 25.) It follows therefore, that the Father is the only true God.

Other passages of Scripture, which prove the same doctrine, are those in which Christ asserts, that the Father alone knew the day of general judgment, Matt. xxiv. 36. Mark xiii. 32. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the Angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only. If any one being besides the Father were God, he would have known the day of judgment; since therefore the Father alone knew this day, it is evident that he alone is the omniscient God.

The Apostles also declare, that our Lord Jesus Christ was not God, but a being distinct from him; that he was subordinate and inferiour to the Father, and derived all his wisdom and power from him. 1 Cor. viii. 6. But to us there is but one God, the Father. Ephes. iv. 6. One God and Father of all. Ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's. 1 Cor. iii. 23. that is, as Christians are subject to the dominion of Christ, so Christ is subject to the dominion of God. The head of Christ is God. 1 Cor. xi. 3. The one infinite mind is repeatedly called not only the Father of Jesus, but likewise his God. Ephes. i. 3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. See also Rom. xv. 6. 2 Cor. i. 3. Colossians i. 3. 1 Peter i. 3. It is said in 1 Cor. xv. 24, that Christ will deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father. Therefore he will be subjected to him, and is consequently inferiour.

There are numerous texts of Scripture, in which it is declared that religious worship is referred to the Father only. See Matt. iv. 10. John iv. 23. Acts iv. 24. 1 Cor. 1—4. In all these, and various other passages, prayers were addressed to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Modern Arians are distinguished by the titles High and Low ; the former, like the Semi-Arians, raising the character of Christ as nearly as possible to the divinity; and the latter sinking it very nearly to mere humanity. The term Arian is now indiscriminately applied to those who consider Jesus simply subordinate to the Father. Some of them believe Christ to have been the Creator of the world; but they all maintain that he existed previously to his incarnation, though in his pre-existent state they assign him different degrees of dignity. (See Unitarians of Dr. Price's description.) See also Pre-existents.

The opinion of the Arians concerning Christ, differs from the Gnostics chiefly in two respects,—(1.) The Gnostics supposed the pre-existent spirit which was in Jesus to have been an emanation from the supreme Being', according to the principles of the philosophy of that age, which made creation out of nothing, to be an impossibility. But the Arians supposed the pre-existent spirit to have been properly created, and to have animated the body of Christ instead of the human soul.—(2.) The Gnostics supposed that the pre-existent spirit was not the maker of the world; but was sent to rectify the evils which had been introduced by the Being who made it. But the Arians supposed that their Logos was the Being, whom God had employed in making the universe, as well as in all his communications with mankind.[1]

For the difference between Arians and Socinians. See Socinians.

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. vol. i. p. 335, 442, 443. Formey's Eccles. Hist, vol. i. p. 76. Priestley's Hist. of Early Opinions, vol. iv. p. 168 Clarke's Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, p. 1, 2, 3, 46. Emlyn's Extracts, p. 9, 10, 11, 21. Yates' Vindication of Unitarianism, p. 69, 70, 79. Theological Repository, vol. iv. p. 276. Doddridge's Lectures, p. 401 Evans' Sketch, p. 59. See also Ben Mordecai's Apology, written by Mr. Henry Taylor.