A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Athanasians
ATHANASIANS, the followers of Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, who flourished in the fourth century. He was bishop forty six years; and his long administration was spent in a perpetual combat against the Arians, and in defence of the doctrine of the Trinity.— The scheme of Athanasius is thus expressed in the creed which bears his name. " The Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the glory equal, the majesty coeternal." See Trinitarians.
This system also includes in it, the belief of two natures in Jesus Christ, viz. the divine and human, forming one person.
To prove the divinity of Christ, and his coequality with the Father, this denomination argue thus:
In John i. 1. it is expressly declared, that In the beginning was the Word, and the Word teas with God, and the Word was God.
That "the Word," in whatever way we choose to translate the original term, which is so rendered, whether we retain this rendering, or give the preference to wisdom or reason, is here to be understood as a designation of Jesus Christ, appears evident from the whole of the subsequent context. It is said in the fourteenth verse, and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. Supposing it then to be admitted, that "the Word" here does not mean an attribute, or an abstract quality personified, but a person; and that this person is Jesus Christ:—it is clear, that the verse contains a plain and express declaration of his true and proper Divinity, The Word was God.
Christ's divinity and coequality with the Father, are plainly taught in Philip, ii, 5, 6, 7, &c. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, &c.
Our divine Saviour says of himself, I and my Father are one, John x. 30. He that has seen me, has seen the Father. John xiv. 9. All things that the Father hath, are mine. John xvi. 15. Those high and strong expressions teach, that he is the Supreme God.
The prophets describe the true God as the only Saviour of sinners. Hosea xiii. 4. Thou shalt know no God but me; for there is no Saviour besides me. Jesus Christ not only professes to save sinners, but he calls himself the Saviour by way of eminence. Hence it is evident, that he assumes a character, in the most emphatical way, which the God of Israel had challenged and appropriated to himself.
The titles given to Christ in the New Testament are the same with those given to God in the Jewish scriptures. Jehovah is the incommunicable name of the Supreme God, signifying his eternal, independent and immutable existence. This name, which is appropriated to God, (Psalms lxxxiii. 18.) is given to Christ. Romans xiv. 11. Heb. i. 10. Jesus is the person spoken of by St. John, whose glory Esaias is declared to have seen, when he affirms, he saw the Lord of Hosts. Therefore Jesus is the Lord of Hosts.
The attributes, which are sometimes appropriated to God, are applied to Christ. Omniscience is ascribed to Christ. John xvi. 30. Now we are sure, that thou knowest all things. To be the searcher of the heart, is the peculiar and distinguishing characteristic of the one true God, as appears from Jer. xvii. 10. Yet our blessed Lord claims this perfection to himself. I am he, saith he, that searcheth the reins, and the heart. Rev. ii. 23.
Omnipresence, another divine attribute, is ascribed to Christ. Matt. xviii. 20. Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Immutability is ascribed to Christ. Heb. i. 10, 11, 12. Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. This is the very description, which the psalmist gives of the immutability of the only true God. See also Heb. xiii. 8.
Eternity is ascribed to Christ, Rev. i. 8. The Son's being Jehovah, is another proof of his eternity, that name expressing necessary existence.
Christ is also said to have almighty power. Heb. i. 3. See also Philip, iii. 21, &c.
The truth and faithfulness of God are ascribed to Christ. I am, says he, the truth, &c.
Divine works are also ascribed to Christ, viz. creation, preservation, and forgiveness of sins.
There are numerous texts of scripture, which assert that Christ is the creator of all things. See Heb. i. 10. Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands. See also Rev. iii. 14. 1 Cor. viii. 6. and various other passages.
The work of creation is every where in scripture represented, as the mark and characteristic, of the true God. See 2 Kings xix. 15. Psalm xix. 1. Hence it is evident, that Christ, the creator, is the true God.
Preservation is ascribed to Christ. Heb. i. 3. Upholding all things by the word of his power.
Christ himself says, in Matt. ix. 6. The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.
Christ's being appointed the Supreme Judge of the world, is an evidence that he is the true God. The God of Israel is emphatically styled, the Judge of all.
Religious worship, though appropriated to God, was, by divine approbation and command, given to Christ. In Heb. i. 6. the apostle, speaking of Christ, says, Let all the angels of God worship him. See also Luke xxiv. 52. John v. 23. Rev. i. 5, 6; v. 13. &c.
The scripture every where asserts, that God alone is to be worshipped. The same scripture asserts, that our blessed Saviour is to be worshipped. Thus St. Stephen adores him with direct worship: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. The obvious consequence of which is, our blessed Saviour is God.
This denomination allege, that divine titles, attributes, works, and worship, arc also ascribed to the Holy Ghost.
Many plead, that the Holy Spirit is called Jehovah in the Old Testament, by comparing Acts xxviii. 26. with Isa. vi. 9. And He also appears to be called God, Acts v. 4.
Eternity is clearly the property of the Holy Ghost, who is styled, by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, the Eternal Spirit. Heb. ix. 14.
Omnipresence is a necessary proof of divinity. This attribute belongs to the Holy Spirit: for thus saith the inspired poet, Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Psa. cxxxix, 7.
Omniscience is ascribed to the Spirit. 1 Cor. ii. 10. For the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God.
St. Paul declares, that his ability to work all manner of astonishing miracles, for the confirmation of his ministry, was imparted to him by the Spirit. Rom. xv. 19.
The principal passages of Scripture which are alleged to prove that divine worship is given to the Spirit, are Matt. xxviii. 19. Is. vi. 3—9. Acts xxviii. 25.
The Trinity of persons in the Godhead appears from the form of baptizing in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And also from the Apostolic benediction. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all, Amen. The Trinity in unity is one Supreme Being, distinguished from all others by the name Jehovah. Deut. vi. 4. The Lord our God is one Jehovah. Yet Christ is Jehovah. Jer. xxiii. 6.—so is the Spirit. Ezek. viii. 3. Therefore Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one Jehovah. They are three persons, but have one name and one nature.
- It has been supposed that this creed, which bears the name of Athanasius, was not drawn up by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria; it is commonly attributed to Vigilius, the African, who lived about the end of the fifth century. See Evans' Sketch, and Adams' Religious World Displayed.
- See Mr. Alexander's Essay on the real Deity of Jesus Christ.
- Waterland's Sermons, p. 34, 69, 97, 164. Abbadie on the Divinity of Christ, p. 58, 65, 242. Jones' Doctrine of the Trinity, p. 2, 34, 62. Watts' Christian Doctrine of the Trinity. Doddridge's Lectures, p. 392. Robinson's Plea. Vindication of Christ's Divinity, p. 263, 269. Wardlaw's Discourses. Reply to Yates.