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A.D. 310-367.





CHAPTER I. The Country and the Age of Hilary

CHAPTER II. Outlines of the Career of Hilary 

CHAPTER III. The Youth of Hilary 

CHAPTER IV. First Years of Hilary's Episcopate 

CHAPTER V. Hilary in Exile

CHAPTER VI. The Questions at Issue

CHAPTER VII. Hilary and the Arians

CHAPTER VIII. Hilary and the Semi-Arians

CHAPTER IX. Hilary and the Emperor

CHAPTER X. Mistakes of Hilary

CHAPTER XI. The Critics of Hilary

CHAPTER XII. Hilary as Teacher and as Commentator

CHAPTER XIII. Hilary’s Irenicon

CHAPTER XIV. Hilary as Historian

CHAPTER XV. Minor Elucidations

CHAPTER XVI. Last Years of Hilary—Conclusion

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Hilaire de Poitiers avant l'exil : recherches sur la naissance, l'enseignement et l'épreuve d'une foi épiscopale en Gaule au milieu du IVe siècle

St. Hilary of Poitiers & John of Damascus

St Hilary Of Poitiers Select Works






It was permitted by God’s providence that at the time when His Son, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, heathen Rome should be the mistress of the world. But to reach this pinnacle of earthly greatness had been a long and arduous task—a task achieved by hard-won triumphs against able and often formidable enemies.

Among the opponents of the pre-eminence of Rome, the Gauls were for many centuries the most uncompromising. Their opposition, it is true, was of a wayward and fitful character. The different tribes of the race did not often act in concert; and, even when they did so, their harmony was soon broken. No Gallic general can be said to have attained the high position won by Pyrrhus of Epirus, far less that achieved by Hannibal, in a career of anti-Roman warfare. Even Brennus, the chieftain of the Gauls, who in BC 390 captured and burnt Rome, did not remain in central Italy long enough to consolidate his conquest.

But while the rivalry of other enemies, as of the Epirote and the Carthaginian, was comprised within a comparatively limited period of time, that of the Gauls was enduring and persistent. The Celtic tribes in that part of northern Italy which the Romans called Cisalpine Gaul, as well as those who occupied so large a portion of the country now known to us as France, continued for more than three centuries to be the watchful and unsleeping foes of Rome. They looked out for opportunities, and when they saw them were not very scrupulous about breach of treaties. The sudden and irregular character of the Celtic attacks was of that kind which the Romans specified by the name of a tumult; and, as a Gallic tumult was an event which might happen at any moment, a special fund of money was kept in the Temple of Saturn in order to meet such an emergency.

A day, however, was to come when the long duel between these powers was doomed to cease. Cisalpine Gaul was humbled and reduced to a Roman province about BC 200, soon after the defeat of Hannibal. About 150 years later that remarkable man, who has been justly called the greatest and most versatile of all Romans, Caius Julius Caesar, in a series of campaigns, which lasted for nine years, completely subdued the whole of the Further Gaul. We must not pause to consider the character and the motives of the conqueror. But it seems only fair to remark, that when it is asserted, and perhaps truly, that a million of Gauls may have perished in fighting against Caesar, it is a mere assumption to imply, as is often done, that these warriors would have died a natural death if they had escaped the sword of Rome. With the exception of those who had been civilised by the influence of the Roman province in the south­east (the district subsequently known as Provence), the inhabitants of Gaul were a nation of fighters, and the men struck down by Caesar would have perished in domestic feuds or in some of their almost daily battles with the Germans. That this great feat did subserve the further plans of the ambitious conqueror is, of course, quite undeniable. No part of Caesar’s career seems to have produced a deeper impression on the imagination of the Roman people. The treasure preserved in the Saturnian temple was appropriated by Caesar on the occasion of his triumphant entry into Rome, in BC 49, after he had crossed the Rubicon. To the protest of the tribune, Metellus, that it was a deed of sacrilege to touch this fund for any purpose except to repel a Gallic invasion, Caesar was able to make the swift and proud retort, “the fear of a Gallic invasion is forever at an end; I have subdued the Gauls.

From that date Gaul not merely accepted the yoke of Rome, but enlisted her sons in Roman armies, and eagerly studied Roman literature and Roman law. Caesar, with that wondrous power of fascination which he exerted alike over friends and foes, raised a legion composed of his former adversaries, which bore a lark upon its helmets and was known, from the Celtic name for that bird, as the Legio Alauda. Under the rule of Augustus, the quickness of the native Gallic intellect displayed itself in an eager adaptation of the language and the arts of their conquerors. Six or seven cities became famous for military manufactures, such as the red cloth worn by Roman soldiers. Medicine and philosophy were likewise sedulously cultivated, but of all studies rhetoric was among the most popular. The contests of the bar especially delighted the litigious and loquacious spirit of the Gauls. Arles, Toulouse, and Vienne were conspicuous as seats of classic literature; Lyons was celebrated, as a Roman biographer and satirist inform us, for its rhetorical contests; and the Latinity of Gaul, though somewhat deficient in that severity of taste which marked the style of the best models in Rome, yet often undoubtedly displayed a character of really rich and copious eloquence.

The contest at Lyons embraced both Greek and Latin composition. Marseilles, believed to have been founded by Greeks, was esteemed to be the headquarters of Grecian culture in Gaul; and traces of some knowledge of Greek remained for four or five centuries in the south-eastern part of the country.

The above facts will be found to bear upon the next great event in the history of the country; an event of far more importance than even its conquest by Caesar; although, humanly speaking, that conquest was its necessary prelude. We refer to the introduction of the Christian religion into the land. The Christian faith must have penetrated Gaul at least as early as A.D. 170; for by A.D. 177 we find a religious colony from Asia Minor or Phrygia settled on the banks of the river Rhone, and keeping up in the Greek language a correspondence with the mother Church in the Eastern clime from which it sprang.

The occasion of this correspondence was a terrible but a very glorious one. The philosophic Stoic, the last of that school, the virtuous Marcus Aurelius, was then seated on the imperial throne. But this emperor, though he may not have originated the fearful persecution of the Christians which broke out at Lyons and at Vienne, virtually encouraged it by the rescript which he addressed to the local authorities. The fearful details of the cruelties exercised upon the sufferers, and the constancy with which they were borne, have been powerfully narrated by many modern historians. But it is not easy to surpass the simple pathos of the original letter preserved for us in the pages of Eusebius.1 Here it must suffice to remind the reader, as a proof of the way in which all ranks were blended by their common faith, that while the aged Bishop of Lyons, Potheinus, who perished in that persecution, was a man of station and culture, yet its heroine, the greatest sufferer of all, was the lowly Christian slave, Blandina.

Gaul had already proved a fruitful soil for the spread of the new creed. This violent persecution, so nobly met, greatly intensified its power, and afforded a new illustration of the often-quoted maxim of Tertullian, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” During the succeeding century the Christians of Gaul, though always liable to outbursts of popular fury, appear to have enjoyed comparative tranquillity.

But the latest and fiercest of the persecutions (which broke out in A.D. 303 and lasted for nearly ten years), the one commanded by the Emperor Diocletian, at the instigation of his colleague Galerius, embraced in its wide range alike the most eastern provinces of the empire and the western province of Gaul. Happily the governor, Constantius Chlorus, was not only of a mild and tolerant disposition, but also cherished in his inmost heart a very great respect for Christians. He was compelled, indeed, for the sake of appearances, to do something. The overthrow of a few churches, which had already been much damaged, and the forcible closing of some others marked the extent of his interference. Not only did he refrain from any cruelties towards persons, but he acted in a way which showed the value which he placed upon consistency. Summoning to his presence those among his officers who made a profession of Christianity, he inquired of them what would be their conduct, if he should find himself obliged to enforce the imperial decrees, and to call upon those around him to offer sacrifice, or at least incense to the heathen gods. Some of them announced that, though such a proceeding would be most painful to their feelings, they would not like to disobey the emperor, and were prepared to yield the point. Others declared, however much they might regret finding themselves placed in such a dilemna, nothing should induce them to render homage to the pagan deities. The governor dismissed them without any remark. But, somewhat to the surprise of both sets, it was soon found that promotion and places of trust were bestowed, not upon those who had expressed their willingness to yield, but upon those who had avowed their inability so to act. Constantius explained to private friends, that he could not confide in the loyalty professed towards an earthly master by men so ready to betray Him whom they professed to regard as a heavenly one.

Constantius Chlorus, who for two years (305­6) ruled as emperor conjointly with Galerius, died at York, in the imperial palace of that city, in 306. We are not surprised to learn that under his tolerant rule Christianity had made considerable progress in Gaul, and that by the close of the fourth century there were not less than twenty bishoprics in this important province. The Gaul of that date, it may be observed in passing, was rather more extensive than the France of our own days, and constituted as much as one-twelfth part of the mighty Roman empire. Constantius was succeeded by his son, Constantine, the first emperor who made a public profession of Christianity and mounted the cross upon the imperial diadem. That the symbol of agony and shame should be thus exalted in the sight of men was the outward mark of a vast revolution—a revolution alike in the world of thought and of action—a revolution social and political as well as spiritual.

The motives and the character of Constantine were mixed. He remained, both as a politician and in his domestic affairs, cold, and too often cruel. He put to death his rival, Licinius, in 322, not wholly perhaps without excuse, but still in such wise as to lay himself open to the charge of bad faith. A few years later he also executed his own son, Crispus, whom he believed to have conspired against him. But the subsequent conviction that Crispus was either innocent, or at least less guilty than had been supposed, led Constantine into furious indignation against his second wife, Fausta, who had been the chief accuser of her stepson. Accordingly, Fausta also was put to death, as, what heathens would have called, a sacrifice to the manes of Crispus.

If deeds of this nature had been committed by a heathen emperor, they would have excited comparatively little attention; but that one who professed himself a Christian should thus act has, not unnaturally, drawn down upon Constantine’s memory far severer comments, most especially from the heathen annalists of his reign, Zosimus and Aurelius Victor. For our part, we gladly adopt on this subject the observations of an historian of our day:—“We must frankly admit that Constantine, who yet warred with the faith of a Christian, and often conducted his government in accordance with the light shed by the Gospel, nevertheless, avenged his private wrongs with the rigour, and often with the cunning, of a Roman emperor of the old creed. History has a right to notify, in his case, with astonishment and severity, vices which were familiar to his predecessors. It is one additional mark of homage which she renders to his character and his faith!”

From the same historian we borrow the following masterly and candid summary of the general character of the chief human agent in that great revolution, which embraced in its operations the important province of Gaul. He observes, that before we answer the question whether Constantine, in his conversion, was actuated by shrewd political calculation or by a feeling of true faith, we must determine what we mean by faith. Of that sincere and living faith which is associated with penitent compunction, amendment of life, conquest of passions, detachment from the prizes of earth, Constantine had but a very imperfect grasp until his death-bed sickness. He remained ambitious, and was (as we have observed) too often cruel. But to admit thus much is very different from saying that Constantine did not really believe and reverence the Christian religion. The acceptance of Christianity by a sovereign far from being, on merely human grounds, a sure road to power, was a great risk. It alienated more than half his subjects from him; it snapped the link with all the memorials and traditions of the empire; it involved him in very serious political embarrassments. Even the hesitating manner in which he interfered with the internal discussions of the Church betokened his scrupulousness; for in matters of state he was accustomed to command without debating. With all these pledges of conscientious conviction before us, it seems impossible for impartial judges to doubt the sincerity of Constantine.

“The glory of men is for the most part increased by the importance of the events with which they are mixed up, and more than one famous name has thus owed its celebrity to a fortuitous combination. But the destiny of Constantine has been precisely the reverse of this. In his case, on the contrary, it is the greatness of the work which dims the reputation of the workman. Between the results of his reign and his personal merits there is by no means the ordinary proportion between cause and effect. To be worthy of attaching his name to the conversion of the world he needed to have joined to the genius of heroes the virtues of saints. Constantine was neither great enough nor pure enough for his task. The contrast, but too manifest to all eyes, has justly shocked posterity. Nevertheless, history has seen so few sovereigns devote to the service of a noble cause their power, and even their ambition, that it has a right, when it meets with such, to demand for them the justice of men and to hope for the mercy of God.”

Constantine, whose acceptance of Christianity put a stop to all further persecution from heathens (save during the brief episode of the reign of his grandson, Julian the Apostate), died in 337, having first moved the seat of empire from Rome to the famous city on the Bosphorus, which is still called after him, Constantinople. The empire, as many of our readers will remember, was divided among his three sons—Constans, Constantius, and Constantine II. Gibbon’s judgment on their capacities for swaying the rod of empire is well known. He ranks in this respect a celebrated ecclesiastical leader (though from the sceptical historian’s point of view “his mind was tainted by the contagion of fanaticism”) far above all three: “Athanasius displayed a superiority of character and abilities which would have qualified him far better than the degenerate sons of Constantine for the government of a great monarchy.” This threefold rule did not long endure. Before three years had passed away, Constantine, making war upon Constans, was defeated and put to death. For ten years (340-50) Constans and Constantius were joint emperors; but in 350 Constans was slain by Magnentius, and then Constantius in turn, slaying the usurper, became sole emperor, and ruled the provinces formerly under the authority of his brothers.

The condition, then, of the Gaul of the fourth century was that of a large province of a mighty empire, which had derived a portion indeed of its earlier intellectual culture from Greece, but which was now organised on Roman principles in all that concerned its temporal government. The system of taxation of the public domains, of roads traversed by imperial posts, of enlistment and management of the army, was all administered from Rome. Some few judicial and municipal liberties were left; but even these were falling more and more under the influence of the central authority. At the time of which we speak, these institutions, which were pagan in their origin, remained essentially such; for not only were large tracts of Gaul un-Christianised, but even in the Christian parts society had not been in any wise leavened by Christian principle. Nevertheless, there existed among the Christian portions a freedom of thought and of action unknown among the functionaries of the civil administration. The civil authorities were jealously watched from Rome, but the rulers of the Christian society were (excepting in times of persecution) left very much to themselves. It will be seen, however, from the following narrative that Constantius acted in this respect differently from former emperors.

Meanwhile, the progress of Christianity had been troubled by something worse perhaps than heathen persecution. The heresy of Arius—that is to say, the denial of the central truth of the Christian faith, the full divinity of Christ,—had by this time spread into Gaul, and had been adopted by some even among the bishops of the Church. The favour of the court was also largely extended towards it.

Such was the Gaul of the fourth century, in which Hilary’s lot was cast. To what extent the Celtic blood permeated ancient Gaul is a question much disputed. But it was certainly the dominant race. Different tribes of this family had often a capital town, which in time lost its prior name, and was called by the name of the clan. Thus, for example, the city which in Caesar’s “Commentaries” is Lutetia of the Parisii became Paris; Avaricum of the Bituriges became Bourges; and Hilary’s home, once called Limonum of the Pictones or Pictavienses, at an early period became Pictavi, and thence Poictiers or Poitiers.





There are three questions to which we expect some manner of reply when we take up the biography of any man of note. In the first place, we desire to ask, What were the outward facts of his career? Secondly, what was the influence of his age upon him ? Thirdly, what was his influence upon his age ? In the case before us, the answer to the last of these questions must be gathered from our narrative and criticisms taken as a whole. But some reply to the first, and even partially to the second, of these queries may be briefly given here, although they will be treated with greater fulness in the course of our succeeding chapters.

The outward facts of Hilary’s career may be summarily stated as follows :—He was born in or near Poitiers in the early part of the fourth century. We do not know the exact date, but it may probably have been between 315 and 320. The parents of Hilary were pagans, people of high station, who gave their son an excellent education. While still a young man, he became a Christian. He married, and had one child, a daughter, by name Abra. In 353 he was elected, while yet a layman, to the see of his native town. As bishop he contended earnestly against Arianism in Gaul. Three years later we find him exiled to Phrygia by the emperor. There, too, he did his best, by writings and by influence in councils, to struggle against Arians, but at the same time to make peace, if possible, with the semi-Arians. He found time to compose commentaries on parts of Holy Scripture, and a treatise on the Holy Trinity. In 360, after an exile of more than three years, he was allowed to return home. He did not, however, reach Poitiers until the year 362, when he rejoined his wife and daughter. In he made a journey into Italy to confront the then bishop of Milan, Auxentius, whom he regarded as hypocritical. In the year following he returned to Poitiers, and died there peacefully in 368.

In an earlier period of the Church’s history, Hilary’s courage and outspokenness would probably have enrolled him among the martyrs put to death by heathen rulers. In the later middle age he might possibly have remained a layman, and tried to interpenetrate judicial or political duties with Christian principles. But he was born too late for the struggle against heathen persecutions, and too soon for the attempt to Christianise the work of a statesman. His friends and neighbours showed a true instinct when they selected him for the office of a bishop, although they could not have foreseen the deep and far-reaching penetration of his future influence.

Whether Hilary did not, like many good men, see but too keenly the evils of his own times, and fancy that the former days had been better than they really were; whether he fully realised the power of those good influences around him which co-operated with holier aids to save him from the falsities, first of heathenism and then of heresy, may be doubted. But it will be seen, that the very perils and trials, arising out of the temper and circumstances of the age in which his lot was cast, brought out the nobler elements of his character; and that, though he may have been betrayed into excess of denunciation of at least one adversary, he deservedly earned, alike by his charity and firmness, the honourable title of “Confessor,” bestowed on those who struggled for the faith, though they may not have been called upon to resist even unto blood.





Hilary is one of those men whose writings, though they cannot fairly be charged with egotism, yet do tell us a good deal about himself. His largest, perhaps his most important work, the treatise on “The Holy Trinity,” composed during his exile in Phrygia, supplies considerable information respecting his youth.

His parents, as we have said, were pagans; nor do we know whether in their later day they followed the example of their son in embracing Christianity. But they gave him the best education, which they could obtain for him in the Western Gaul, of their time. This education, if we may judge from results, must probably have included some tincture of logic and of mental philosophy. It evidently embraced also a certain measure of acquaintance with Greek, and, above all, with rhetoric, and with the Latin language and literature. Hilary became in time a deep thinker; and, if his powers of expression are not always found adequate to his powers of thought, some allowance must be made for the difficulty of the subjects which he treats, and the inferiority of the Latin to the Greek language in the enunciation of those problems which arise out of philosophy and theology.

A severe critic, belonging to the period of the Reformation, the celebrated Erasmus, pronounces Hilary somewhat deficient in simplicity and severity of style. Erasmus admits, however, that these gifts were seldom acquired by any writers of Latin, except those who were native Romans, or who had resided from their youth upwards within the city of Rome. There is, no doubt, some ground for this criticism. Indeed, it had been partially anticipated by St. Jerome. Even when that Father of the Church calls Hilary “the Rhone of eloquence,” he was, probably, suggesting the idea of a stream, which is often turbid as well as swift and impetuous. Indeed, in another passage Jerome complains of Hilary’s periods as being often too lengthy, and, consequently, unintelligible to any but learned readers.

Endued with a temperament which seems to have been by nature lofty, and possessed of no mean amount of intellectual culture, Hilary, while yet a very young man, yearned for knowledge of another kind. He longed to know what was the source, and what the end, of all his thought and action. Merely to enjoy the ease and plenty which his station in life afforded him was to rise but little, if at all, above the brute creation around him. But he must, he felt, be intended for something which was beyond their reach. For example, the desire to attain to truth was in itself a pledge of superiority over the animals. Then there was also the attempt to cherish what all, even among the wiser heathen, admitted to be virtues; such as, for instance, courage and temperance. With these Hilary learnt to class, he tells us, the passive graces, such as patience and gentleness. But was it to be supposed that all these energies of the head and of the heart were to cease with the ending of this life ? He could not think so. A future life to come, at least as happy as that of earth, in all probability much more so, seemed to him a natural conclusion of a career of goodness upon earth. Now such a prize could come from one source only—namely, from a Supreme Being. The very notion of “ gods many and lords many,” the error known as polytheism, had always appeared to him a manifest absurdity.

Let us pause here for a moment. We are all, in some degree, the creatures of our age. We are all, in a measure, influenced by what surrounds us. But this is an influence of which we are only partially conscious. Hilary, as we have already implied, does not seem to have suspected how much he may have been indebted to the atmosphere of thought around him. His appreciation of the gentler and passive forms of virtue is unpagan. The same must be said respecting his perception of the absurdities involved in the heathen recognition of many gods. It is absurd; for no one of such beings can really be God. One of the great attributes of a really Supreme Being is almightiness,—the possession of a power which is unlimited, save by His goodness, or by laws in the world of intellect which He has made and constituted as part of Himself. But the heathen, as a rule, did not perceive this absurdity. They read in Homer, how a goddess favoured Ulysses and Diomed to the extent of letting them obtain the mystic horses of Rhesus, but how Apollo at this point woke up and prevented them from taking the chariot. Or they learnt from his imitator, Virgil, how Aeolus, god of the winds, let loose the gales to please Juno, but was sternly rebuked by Neptune when these breezes made a storm upon the ocean. That Hilary was struck by the incongruities of such a system was most probably owing to a fact repeated in all ages, the indirect impression made by move­ments in the world of thought upon those who do not consciously support or sympathise with such movements. Most justly has Dean Merivale remarked of Christianity, even in its earliest age, that “when it counted its converts by thousands its unconscious disciples were millions.”

Reason and conscience, aided by the atmosphere of thought around him, had led Hilary thus far. But he now began to feel the need of something more, to experience the truth of what, many centuries after, was to be expressed by a celebrated English poet:—

Dim, as the borrow’d beams of moon and stars

To lonely, weary, wandering travellers,

Is reason to the soul; and as on high

Those rolling fires discover but the sky,

Not light us here, so reason’s glimmering ray

Was lent, not to assure our doubtful way,

But guide us upward to a better day.

Happily for Hilary the means of attaining to this better day were accessible. He was able to obtain and to study the Holy Scriptures; the Old Testament, probably in the famous Greek translation known as that of the Seventy (the Septuagint), made at Alexandria at least two full centuries before the Christian era; and the New Testament in the original language. However imperfect and unequal the Septuagint version may be, it was a mighty in­strument in the way of preparing the world for the spread of the Gospel. Hilary found in the books of Moses and in the Psalms abundant assistance in his desire to know God.

But this knowledge was not unmixed with fear. He was deeply conscious of much weakness, both in the body and in the spirit; and the thought of the Creator in relation to His creatures was one of reverential awe, as well as love. There came in, for his consolation and guidance, the books of the new dispensation. The works of Apostles and Evangelists supplied what the Law and the Prophets could not give. Hilary was especially drawn to the Gospel of St. John. Its clear and emphatic language in the Incarnation of the Eternal Son was, to his mind, eminently encouraging and satisfactory.

It need not surprise us to find, that one who had thus mastered the leading principles of true religion, both natural and revealed, should desire to enrol himself as a member of that community with which he was already identified in heart. About 350, as nearly as we can make out—in other words, about the middle of the fourth century—Hilary formally renounced paganism, proclaimed himself a Christian, and was thereupon duly baptised.

There are other questions connected with this change which we should be glad to answer if we could. For example, Hilary, at the time of his conversion to Christianity though still tolerably young, was already married and had an infant daughter.

Was his wife a Christian by birth, and had her influence and example anything to do with his change of creed? We cannot say. But such evidence as we do possess seems to render it probable that she was not. Hilary appears to be a very honest writer, and far from reticent in his disclosing the circumstances of his life or his feelings wherever he sees any reason for proclaiming them. Some six years after his conversion, he was doomed to a separation of nearly six years from both wife and daughter. No correspondence between him and them has come down to us, saving one letter to the daughter, who was named Abra. The reference to his wife in this letter (we are ignorant of her name) is tender and respectful. But, if she had been an agent in reclaiming him from heathenism, it would probably have been noticed somewhere, either by Hilary or by those who have furnished us with the materials for his biography.

Did his wife become a Christian at the same time with her husband? Here, again, we lack definite information. But we may almost safely assume that she did. The daughter was evidently nurtured in the faith from the earliest time that she could remember.

For the next three years of his life, Hilary lived as a good and devout Christian layman. His example was a thoroughly edifying one to those around him. On one point he saw reasons, in after-years, to change his habits. This point was what would now be called a question of casuistry. Those Holy Scriptures, which had been his guide to truth, and, under Providence, the chief means of his conversion, seemed to him at first to inculcate the greatest possible separation, in all matters of social intercourse, from Jews and from heretics. Hilary, in his later days, relaxed the severity of his rules in this respect. His experience of life taught him, that by meeting with those who held false or erroneous doctrines he gained opportunities of influencing them for good. Sometimes a process, which ended in conversion to the true faith of Christ, was thus commenced ; and in other cases he was at least able to soften and to conciliate opponents.

By casuistry in its good and proper sense—it has often been abused and so got an ill name—is meant the application of the general principles of religion and morality to individual cases, more especially to cases of apparent difficulty. Neither of the courses pursued by Hilary can be called wrong. Each case must be judged on its own merits. There are men, who are conscious that such intercourse as Hilary at first shunned either irritates them, or else leads them into dangerous concessions. They do well to avoid the temptation, and they can plead many Scriptural examples and precepts on their side. Such passages as the Second Epistle of the loved disciple, and some even in the writings of St. Paul lend countenance to such a course of life; to say nothing of the examples of men who were specially called to live apart from the world, such as Elijah, Elisha, and the Holy Baptist. But there are, undoubtedly, other men and women who possess the rare gift of being in the world, and yet not of the world, who can really imitate that part of the conduct of the Apostle of the Gentiles, wherein he describes himself as becoming all things to all men in the hope of at least saving some. The talents and opportunities of Hilary were such as to fit him for such a line of conduct, and consequently to justify him in adopting it.

As a layman, Hilary held a position of some kind not unsuited to his rank and education. He was either one of the officers attached to the court of the Governor of Gaul, known as curiales, or else a municipal magistrate. There is a great charm and beauty attendant on the course pursued by many of God’s commissioned servants, who, like a Samuel in the Mosaic dispensation, or a Timothy in the Christian, have been trained from their very childhood in such a way as to prepare them for the duties of the sanctuary. But it must not be forgotten, that many of those not so trained have brought with them into the service of the ministry many useful acquirements capable of sanctification and most efficient for the propagation of the faith, and the building up of Christ’s Church,—tact, knowledge of the world, habits of order, authority, and perception of the best ways of influencing for their good the men and women around them. The knowledge of Greek literature as well of a holier lore, and the possession of the rights of Roman citizenship, contributed not a little to the efficiency of that most illustrious propagator of truth, once known as the persecutor, Saul of Tarsus. The annals of the early Church furnish a long list of martyrs, of apologists, of missionaries, of bishops, and confessors, who came forth (to adopt an image of St. Augustine’s) out of Egypt, laden with its spoils; who brought to their new duties their knowledge of philosophy, of rhetoric, or of human law and government. Hilary of Poitiers has no claim to a place among those trained from infancy to be teachers for priests and rulers of the Church; but he has a claim to a high and honoured position in the catalogue of those who, having been originally among the children of this world, have, by God’s grace, won their way into the ranks of the children of light.

That which happened to St. Ambrose and to some other distinguished converts to Christianity during the first four centuries fell also to the lot of Hilary. From being merely a layman, he was invited by his friends and fellow-citizens to become the bishop of his native town. That such suddenness of elevation would, in most cases, prove perilous, both to the person so advanced and to the diocese intrusted to his charge, can hardly be doubted. But there are exceptions to all rules, and the case of Hilary is one of them. He thoroughly justified the choice.





The predecessor of Hilary in the see of Poitiers died in 353. It is believed, that his name was Maxentius, and that he was brother to another prelate of great piety, afterwards known as St.Maximin of Trèves. The commencement of Hilary’s episcopate dates from the same year (353). He had not courted this promotion; but the objections arising from his humility had been over-ruled. In addition to the usual duties of the episcopal office, two subjects engaged the especial notice of the new bishop. Of these, one was the want of a continuous commentary on some book of the New Testament; the other, the contest against Arianism.

At this period Christians, who understood Latin only, and not Greek—and this was the condition of the great majority of Christians in Gaul and throughout the Western Church generally—did not possess any commentary on an Epistle or Gospel. They could read, indeed, forcible apologies for the faith against heathenism, and many excellent tractates upon various Christian duties; but they had no complete explanation of any single book of the New Testament.

It is justly reckoned among the most eminent claims of Hilary to our regard, that he was the first among the divines of the West who perceived this want, and attempted to supply it. He published a commentary in Latin on the Gospel of St. Matthew. It must be remembered, that what we now call the modern languages could hardly yet be said to exist for any literary purposes. Latin in the western part of the Roman Empire, and Greek in the eastern, were the two languages known respectively to the largest number of people. For an account of this work, as also Hilary’s comments upon the Psalms, we must refer the reader to a later chapter. It must be enough to say, for the present, that Hilary by this act laid not only Gaul, but all the Latin-speaking Christian communities, under an obligation. Brought to knowledge of the truth by study of the Scriptures, he was anxious to help others to a rightful understanding of their meaning.

The contest of Hilary against Arianism must also form the subject of a separate consideration. But a few words must be said in this place respecting the position of the Arians in Gaul.

The see which of all others took the leading place in this province, that of Arelas (now known as Arles), was unfortunately at this period occupied by a vehement Arian. His name was Saturninus, and he is conspicuous as being the chief opponent, throughout the whole period before us, of the Bishop of Poitiers, the chief defender of the orthodox faith in Gaul. Hilary shows, as a rule, so much consideration for opponents, that we are bound to believe that he is not speaking without warrant, when he describes this or that adversary as exceptionally violent and unscrupulous. Another writer, Sulpicius Severus, quite agrees with Hilary in his accounts of Saturninus. He was assisted by two other prelates, named respectively Ursacius and Valens. Their reputation is somewhat fairer than that of Saturninus. But their course of action, if less violent than his, was decidedly more inconsistent and uncertain. So completely had, by this time, the great name of Athanasius become associated with the defence of the faith, that the attacks or support of the truths enshrined in the Nicene Creed were frequently combined with the condemnation or the acquittal of the famous Bishop of Alexandria. Now, Ursacius and Valens, at a council held at Milan in 355, first voted for the acquittal of Athanasius, but subsequently changed their minds, and supported a vote for his condemnation. There are moments when the treatment of a man affects the public mind far more keenly than the discussion of a doctrine. This changefulness on the part of these two bishops seems to have alienated many from their cause. A clear majority of the bishops of Gaul separated themselves from the communion of Ursacius, Valens, and Saturninus, and recognised Hilary as their leader in the work of “earnestly contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”

It may well be asked, How did Hilary arrive so soon at a position of such prominence ? The see of Poitiers was not a leading one, such as that of Arles, nor so famous as many others in Gaul, as, for example, those of Lyons or Vienne. He had been little more than two years a bishop, and had by no means courted eminence. All that can be said is, that Hilary seems to have carried with him a natural weight of influence. That his social position, his good education (so much above that of the majority), his knowledge of the world, all contributed to this result, is highly probable. But these gifts would not have sufficed, had not his brother-bishops been convinced that they had found in him a defender of the faith at once resolute, able, and charitable. They waived the considerations of the position of the see of Poitiers, and the short tenure of the episcopate by its bishop. Justly, it would seem, has a famous German writer of this century applied to Hilary the remark which Gibbon has made with reference to his contemporary, Athanasius, that “in a time of public danger the dull claims of age and rank are sometimes superseded.”





The power of sending obnoxious persons into banishment was one of the most terrible possessed by the Roman emperors. In the case of an accusation involving the risk of capital punishment, we know that “it was not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die before that he which was accused had the accusers face to face, and had licence to answer for himself concerning the charge laid against him”. But in the case of exile no such fairness was maintained. Augustus sent into banishment, far from Rome, into the frozen regions of the banks of the Danube near the Black Sea, the celebrated poet, Ovid; and to this day no one knows what was the real cause of the sentence passed upon him. Utterly different from the lax and too often immoral pagan poet as was the pure and high-souled Christian prelate, there is this much in common between the two cases, that we are ignorant in both of them of the real grounds of the imperial wrath. Augustus did, indeed, specify a charge—namely, the bad tone of Ovid’s poetry; but that this was the real ground of offence has not found credence with a single historian, ancient or modern. Constantius, the emperor, who made Hilary an exile, never vouchsafed to explain the precise charge on which the sentence was based. From private sources, Hilary found reason to think that Saturninus of Arles, who had won the ear of Constantius, had persuaded the emperor, not merely that the Bishop of Poitiers was a dangerous and turbulent person, in a political point of view, but that he had been guilty of some crime which was morally disgraceful.

The sentence was passed upon Hilary in 356, shortly after a council of bishops had been held at Beziers (then called Biterra) in the province subsequently known as Languedoc. Saturninus probably presided at this meeting. Hilary, with some orthodox bishops, was present: but he declares that he was refused a hearing. In fact, as at many other provincial councils held at this period, the Arians were clearly in a majority.

During the previous year, Hilary had received a visit from one who was, like himself, a convert to the Christian faith. The name of the visitor was Martin. He is generally regarded as a pupil of Hilary; and it is very possible that Hilary, who was by far the more highly educated, even if not the senior, may have been able to do much for Martin in the way of instruction. But this learner was already making himself a name by his zeal and eloquence, and his visit was looked upon as a fresh testimony to the fervour and the orthodoxy of Hilary. In after-times, Hilary’s friend was destined to be known as St. Martin of Tours, and to become, of all saints, the most popular in the traditions of his native land. Nor was this favourable estimate confined to Gaul; it crossed the Channel, and spread in Britain. To this day, one of our oldest ecclesiastical buildings is known as the church of St. Martin, in Canterbury. The strength thus lent to Hilary was further increased by the changeful conduct of the Arians, Ursacius and Valens, to which reference has already been made. Many who had been inclined to Arianism were repelled by this wavering line of procedure, and had rallied around Hilary. But it pleased God’s providence that his leadership in Gaul should, as we have seen, be rudely interrupted.

Hilary was ordered by Constantius to betake himself to the province of Phrygia, in Asia Minor. Rarely, indeed, was any attempt made to disobey an imperial mandate of this nature. Hilary, like most victims of such orders, went straight to the province pointed out to him, and remained in Phrygia for somewhat more than three years,—from the summer of 356 to the autumn of 359.

The Bishop of Poitiers was one of those persons to whom idleness is insupportable. He contrived to send orders, from time to time, to the clergy of his diocese. They were thoroughly loyal to him; and his wishes, when known, were as completely carried out in his absence as when he was in the midst of his flock. Not being, by the terms of his sentence, absolutely confined to one spot, Hilary took advantage of the liberty allowed him to examine into the state of religion in such parts of Asia Minor as he could reach. His impressions were exceedingly unfavourable; and he has not left us a good report of his brother-bishops in that province. Part of the evil prevalent arose from misunderstandings. On the one hand, the bishops in Gaul imagined that their brethren in Asia were right-down Arians. This was a mistake. They were mostly semi-Arians. The Asiatic prelates fancied, on the other hand, that the bishops of Gaul were lapsing into the error known as Sabellianism. The consideration of these errors must form the subject of a separate chapter. For the present, it is enough to say that Hilary took great pains to remove these mutual misapprehensions, and that his efforts were attended, though not immediately, with a very considerable measure of success.

Meanwhile, some more local councils were held, two at Sirmium (now called Szerem), in Sclavonia, and one at Ancyra, in Galatia. We may suppose from the tone of these gatherings, as compared with others of the three years previous, the current of opinion among Christians was undergoing some change. For whereas, between the years 353-356 inclusive, councils held at Arles, at Milan, and at Beziers, had all proved Arian, two of those named above had been semi-Arian, which was an improvement; and one, the first of Sirmium, could almost claim to have been orthodox in character. It is, however, possible that these differences depended upon circumstances connected with place rather than with time.

But neither communications with friends in Gaul, nor interviews with Christians in Phrygia, nor attention to the affairs of these councils, could suffice to fill up all the leisure time of a bishop who had now no diocese to administer, except indirectly, nor ordinations nor confirmations to hold, nor, it would seem, any sermons to deliver.

The consequence was, that Hilary undertook the composition of two very important treatises, of which we must say more hereafter—his books on Synods (De Synodis), and that upon the Holy Trinity (“De Trinitate”). The former, which is chiefly his­torical, is an olive-branch stretched out to the semi­Arians—one of those conciliatory treatises which, in modern times, is known as an Irenicon. The latter, a much larger and more important composition, is to a large extent positive in its teaching; but several of its books are occupied with answering objections, and those objections are almost exclusively Arian ones.





Before anyone can convince himself that it is his duty to encounter danger, and possibly death, for the sake of a particular doctrine, he must needs satisfy his own heart and conscience on two questions. The first is, whether the religion for which he meditates a combat is worth preserving; the second, whether the doctrine which is assailed is an essential part of that religion.

On the question, Whether Christianity is worth preserving, we possess, in our day, a mass of evidence which in earlier ages did not exist. Many thinkers, who do not commit themselves to the acceptance of the Christian faith, acknowledge the wonderful amount of good which it has effected for the human race. Even Gibbon, at the commencement of the chapters intended to undermine its influence, admits that it is the religion professed by “the most distinguished portion of human kind in arts and learning, as well as in arms.” The beauty of the character of its Founder has been recognised by unbelievers, such as Rousseau and J. S. Mill. Its extraordinary influence in the correction of social vices has been portrayed with much fulness, and with the most earnest desire to be fair, by Mr. Lecky. This learned and gifted writer, while stating all that seems to him most faulty or deficient in Christian tenets and practices, maintains that Christianity revolutionised public opinion in regard to the sanctity of human life, the universality of human brotherhood, the value of purity. In the age of Hilary, Christianity had not had time to leaven society, and much of the argument in its favour was consequently inaccessible. One thing, however, Christians had, which we rarely possess, in the way of demonstration of their superiority. They had besides them the actual working of paganism. A Christian writer of our own time has declared that it is almost necessary to have lived in non-Christian lands in order to appreciate the work of Christianity. In the Europe of the fourth century the manners, the rites, the morals of paganism were still a living reality. It is not necessary to exaggerate those evils, or to forget how painfully short of its own ideal Christian life has constantly fallen. But the contrast, nevertheless, is great and deep. Hilary could have no hesitation in answering the question whether, even on grounds short of the highest, Christianity was worth preserving.

The second question may possibly present, or, at least, seem to present, greater difficulties. It is not to be denied that, from time to time, some assault of controversy has been thought likely to endanger the very citadel of Christianity, which, on further investigation, has been proved to be a mere attack upon an outwork, and an outwork, moreover, of which the retention is of little importance. Even so great a man as St. Augustine imagined that to admit the existence of people living at the antipodes would imperil the Christian faith. How far the Copernican system of astronomy lies under condemnation among our Roman Catholic fellow-Christians may be a moot point. That when taught by Galileo it caused profound alarm, and that he was in some measure persecuted for his proclamation of it, is unquestionable. Again, many learned and excellent persons in our own day have regarded as a vital question, the precise theory adopted by us respecting the mode in which the sacrifice of our Lord’s death wrought the redemption of the human race. Others, again, have used language which would almost seem to imply that the entire fabric of Christian doctrine would collapse, if the commonly-accepted date or authorship of a single book of the Bible were found to be incorrect.

There are not wanting those, especially among sceptics and bystanders, who maintain that the solemn truth, of which Hilary in the West and Athanasius in the East were the most conspicuous champions, is a question of this nature. This is not the place for an elaborate refutation of a grave and deadly error; but it must be observed, that the opposite conviction, namely, that the divinity of our Lord is the central truth of our holy faith, is the conviction of the overwhelming majority of those who profess and call themselves Christians. So completely is this the case where definitions in accordance with it have been given, that it would be almost impossible to detect from internal evidence to what denomination of Christians the writer belonged. “The Christian religion,” writes one, “that is to say, the redemption of men by a God made man.” Or, again, in the fuller statement of another, “What is, in fact, Christianity ? what is its fundamental position, the base, the substance of all its doctrines ? What is the Gospel, that is to say, the news which it announces to the world ? It is that, in consequence of an original and hereditary enfeeblement, man—every man without distinction—had lost the power of fulfilling, and even of knowing his duty, and would, consequently, perish without a chance of safety if God had not come in human form to reopen to him the sources of virtue, of pardon, and of life. Therein lies the sum of Christianity. It is only Christians who sign that creed.” In like manner, a poet of this age in speaking of another poet, Robert Browning, describes him as one who “holds with a force of personal passion the radical tenet of the Christian faith—faith in Christ as God—a tough, hard, vital faith, that can bear at need hard stress of weather and hard thought.”

Once more. “The essence of the belief is the belief in the divinity of Christ. Every view of transformed by contact with that stupendous mystery. Unsectarian Christianity consists in shirking the diffi­culty without meeting it, and trying hard to believe that the passion can survive without its essential basis. It proclaims the love of Christ as our motive, whilst it declines to make up its mind whether Christ was God or man; or endeavours to escape a categorical answer under a cloud of unsubstantial rhetoric. But the difference between God and man is infinite, and no effusion of superlatives will disguise the plain fact from honest minds. To be a Christian in any real sense, you must start from a dogma of the most tremendous kind, and an undogmatic creed is as , senseless as a statue without shape, or a picture without colour.” Of the authors of these words, two are Christians; but the last two quotations are taken from writings of avowed unbelievers in Christianity.

The position of dogmas in the scheme of Christian doctrine has been not inaptly likened to that of the bones in the animal frame. Of course, such a com­parison must needs remind us that the skeleton is not the man; veins and arteries, nerves and muscles, organs of the senses, flesh and skin, and much besides, are needed for the completeness of the structure into which its Maker breathed a soul. But certainly the boneless creatures, such as the jelly-fish, occupy a low place in the scale of creation, and a religion without dogmas would resemble them. To dwell on dogma only would result in an equally imperfect sort of religion. Such a religion would be cold and dry.

It must also be conceded that from time to time there has been manifested in almost every Christian community a tendency to erect into a dogma some tenet which, at the best, can only be regarded as a pious opinion. This is a real infringement upon Christian liberty, and it inevitably does harm in many ways, more especially by throwing suspicion on the dogmatic principle. That the border-line may in some cases be difficult to draw is undeniable, but, generally speaking, a dogma may be defined as “a fundamental principle of saving truth, expressed or implied in Holy Scripture, taught by the Church Universal, and consonant to sound reason.” It may well be doubted whether any corporate body can be held together without some essential principle or set of principles correspondent to dogma. Certainly it must be difficult to name any religion that has lived and energised, apart from the dogmatic principle. In a drama of the last century, “Nathan the Wise,” its author, the celebrated Lessing, appears to suggest that the good specimens of the Mahometan, the Jewish, and the Christian religion therein portrayed prove the unimportance of dogma. It is somewhat singular that he should have drawn representatives of the three most dogmatic religions in the world, the Jewish, the Mahometan, and the Christian. All three repose upon the basis of belief in the unity of the living God, a future life, and judgment to come.

We may seem to have wandered very far from the fourth century and the city of Poitiers, and the eminent bishop of whose life and times we are treating; but we are convinced that a realisation of the continued prominence and importance of certain questions in our own day must help us in the attempt to appreciate fairly the conduct and character of the men of earlier ages. To throw ourselves back by a vigorous effort of the imagination into times in many respects, so unlike our own is, indeed, most desirable. The task, however, though well worth essaying, is not always easy. But this much we may all be able to perceive, that a question which is vital in the nine­teenth century may well have been as vital in the fourth century. If, indeed,, we have made up our minds that Christianity is not worth preserving, then martyrs, confessors, reformers of all time have made a woful mistake, and we cannot possibly sympathise with them, far less feel gratitude to their memories. In like manner, if we can persuade ourselves that it is unimportant whether our Lord be simply a creature, or God Incarnate, then, of course, those who under­went persecution on behalf of His Godhead must be regarded as foolish men, who contended for a shadow.

But we are writing specially for those who believe in the Christian faith, and who accept as among its most fundamental tenets the doctrine of the Incarnation, as well as that of the Holy Trinity. At the risk of some seeming repetition, it will be necessary to set down here the Catholic faith on each of these verities, and the particular deflections from them, against which Hilary made it the business of his life to contend.

And, in the first place, as concerns the Holy Trinity. The following are among the leading propositions concerning the Great Being whose creatures we are. God is One. He has existed from all eternity. Nothing can have come into being with­out His good-will and pleasure. Consequently, those who imagined that matter is eternal—a common mistake among the heathen—were, though perhaps not always intentionally, denying God’s Almightiness; for, if anything has existed without His good-will and pleasure, it is evident that He is not Almighty. There was, then, a long eternity, when as yet created things were not, and God reigned alone—alone, but not solitary, for that in the Oneness of the Godhead there was ever inter-communion between the three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” But there never was a time when the eternal Father had not with Him His image, the eternal Son; just as—if such poor earthly illustrations may be pardoned—a twig growing by the water-side has from the first its own reflected image ever by it. There never was a time when there did not proceed, from the Father immediately, from the Son mediately, the Holy Ghost. The Father is the One God, the Son is the One God, the Holy Ghost is the One God; and yet the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Holy Ghost, nor the Holy Ghost the Father. Further, though all three Persons are of one substance, power, majesty, and eternity, yet is a certain priority of dignity conceived to reside in the Father, forasmuch as He is represented in Holy Scripture as being ministered to by the Son and the Spirit, but never as ministering; as sending, but never sent; as begotten of none, proceeding from none, being the source and origin of Godhead.

What are the mistakes on this lofty theme to which even devout and believing minds are liable? They are two. It is possible to dwell so much upon the separate work of each Person as virtually to make three Gods. This is the error known as Tritheism. A tendency in this direction is probably exhibited by persons who allow themselves to regard the Son as the more merciful, the Father the more severe; for this at once introduces into the Divine Being a separation of will.

The other error seems to arise from a wish to escape from mystery. And yet it would in reality be an argument against the truth of any representation of the Divine Nature, if it involved an entire freedom from mystery. Even our own finite and created natures have about them a great deal of mystery,—“we are fearfully and wonderfully made.” How, then, can we expect that revealed truth concerning the Creator should be devoid of mystery? We cannot, indeed, believe that which is contrary to reason; but we surely may be ready to accept that there is that which is above and beyond reason.

Now, this other error lies in regarding the threefold Personality as being only an exhibition of the same Being, so to speak, in different relations to us. These erroneous teachers spoke of the Triune Godhead in language which, in fact, represented God as One Person. They said, according to Epiphanius, that as in one man there is body, soul, and spirit; so the Father resembled the body, the Son the soul, and the Holy Ghost the Spirit. Such was the teaching of a heretic of the second century, named Sabellius ; whence the error itself is commonly termed Sabellianism. As, however, it would involve the unscriptural inference that the Father had suffered on our behalf, it was also sometimes known by a word expressive of this tenet. This other name was Patripassianism, and its adherents were accordingly sometimes called Patripassians and sometimes Sabellians. A profound thinker of the Middle Ages, the great schoolman Aquinas, declares that we are all tempted sometimes towards imagining too great a separation, sometimes too great an identification of the Persons of the ever-blessed Trinity, and that thus the human mind, if it be not watchful, may alternately be swayed in the direction of Tritheism and in that of Sabellianism. There is, probably, much truth in this remark, and the caution is one for which we should be grateful.

It would not have been necessary to introduce the subject of Sabellianism into this sketch, but for the fact to which reference has been made—that the bishops of Gaul, who supported Hilary in his struggle against Arianism, were suspected of that error. The suspicion seems to have been a thoroughly erroneous one. It probably arose from a misunderstanding of the Greek term Homoousion, which, though it means of one substance, or of one being, was never intended by the Greek-speaking theologians to indicate Oneness of Personality.

But the second great truth of the Gospel Revelation, the Incarnation of our Lord, was the main subject of debate at this time. Christianity brought before the world an idea, an institution, and a Person. The idea, if we may attempt to grasp the leading idea of a religion so profound and far-reaching, may, perhaps, be stated thus,—a blending of the human with the divine, which should be recognised as at once pure and reverent, awful and merciful, subduing and elevating, historical and yet eternal. It is almost needless to observe, that the attempts made to reach such an idea in other religions all fail in some of these particulars. The legends of Greece and Rome are too often the very reverse of pure. The incarnations of Vishnu, narrated in Hindoo records, are neither reverent nor enduring. How completely the historic element is lacking to them may be gathered from one single fact, that we do not know the date, nor anything like the date, of any one of those Sanskrit books which are regarded by Hindoos as sacred.

As an institution, the amount of freedom combined with order exhibited in the Church became an object of admiration to the natives of countries which were either suffering from sheer anarchy, or else weighed down by despotism. Indeed, Gibbon names among the causes of the spread of Christianity the excellence of its organisation ; and, though his ways of solving the problem of its growth are quite inadequate, and in many respects erroneous, yet he is not altogether wrong in his selection; and this is a point which, so far as it reaches, contains at least a measure of truth.

An idea may possess great power. The idea of national independence has played a large part in history; witness the annals of ancient Greece, of Switzerland, of Scotland, or of modern Italy. Institutions may also mould the mind of nations; those attributed to Lycurgus certainly moulded the mind of Sparta. But no idea, nor cycle of ideas, no institution, however well organised, could have won the reverence, the obedience, the enthusiasm, which the Christian religion won by its exhibition of the Person of its Founder. “In addition to all the characters of Hebrew Monotheism, there exists, in the doctrine of the Cross, a peculiar and inexhaustible treasure for the affectionate feelings. The idea of the God­man, the God whose goings forth have been from everlasting, yet visible to men for their redemption as an earthly temporal creature, living, acting, and suffering among themselves; then—which is yet more important—transferring to the unseen place of His spiritual agency the same humanity He wore on earth, so that the lapse of generations can in no way affect the conception of His identity ; this is the most powerful thought that ever addressed itself to a human imagination. It is the fulcrum which alone was wanting to move the world. Here was solved at once the great problem which so long had distressed the teachers of mankind, how to make virtue the object of passion, and to secure at once the warmest enthusiasm in the heart, with the clearest perception of right and wrong in the understanding. The character of the Blessed Founder of our faith became an abstract of morality to determine the judgment, while at the same time it remained personal and liable to love. The Written Word and Established Church prevented a degeneration into ungoverned mysticism, but the predominant principle of vital religion always remained that of self-sacrifice to the Saviour. Not only the higher divisions of moral duties, but the simple, primary impulse of benevolence, were subordinated to this new absorbing passion. The world was loved ‘in Christ alone.’ The brethren were members of His mystical body. All the other bonds that had fastened down the Spirit of the Universe to our narrow round of earth were as nothing in comparison to this golden chain of suffering and self-sacrifice, which at once riveted the heart of man to One who, like Himself, was acquainted with grief. Pain is the deepest thing we have in our nature, and union through pain has always seemed more holy and more real than any other.”

Now, as it pleased God, doubtless for wise ends, to allow that controversies should arise, it was natural that those which concerned the Person of the great Prophet who taught this creed should be among the first to occupy the attention of Christendom; for that question, it must be repeated, touches the very essentials of Christianity. Between those who worship Christ, as God of God, the second Person of the adorable Trinity, and those who make Him a creature, there must needs be a great gulf. True, that the latter class may say that He is no ordinary man; that He is the noblest, best, purest, and highest of all creatures. But, on this supposition, He is still a creature; and to give to a creature the honour due to God alone is the very essence of idolatry.

Now this—when veils of subtlety are torn away— this question, and nothing less, had been the subject of discussion at the Council of Nice. The sceptical historian, to whom reference has just been made, exhibits in his narrative many strange anomalies. Carried away by the grandeur of Athanasius, Gibbon has drawn a picture of that great man, not, indeed, appreciative in the same sense as that given by Hooker, but yet so full of life and vigour, that good judges have pronounced it superior to that contained in the pages of any ecclesiastical historian. Nevertheless, his love of gibes has induced him to suggest, that because the respective watchwords of the orthodox, and of the Arians, or at least the Semi-Arians, differed but in a single letter, the difference between the two was vague, shadowy, and by no means vital.

Whether Gibbon really believed this, whether he could have persuaded himself, that such a man, as he acknowledges Athanasius to be, would have written and argued, toiled and suffered, through his long career for the sake of a mere phantom, a splitting of words, seems very doubtful. But he has contrived to impress the motion, not only upon large masses of ordinary readers, but on the minds of many men of eminence, especially among such as, however great in the domain of scholarship, or physical science, have never bestowed much real thought upon questions of theology.

It is true that the terms, “of one substance,” and “of like substance” (omoousion, omioousion), do, in the original language of the Nicene Creed, differ but by a single letter. It is equally true, that the word Creatour, as it used to be spelt, differs by one letter only from the word creature. Both Arius and Athanasius knew perfectly well that their respective watchwords did involve that vital difference. After­ages have clearly shown this. In our own day we might search the wide world over, and scarcely anywhere should we find a congregation of Arians, still less of Semi-Arians. Their position has been felt to be untenable. But the position to which the teaching of Arius was sure to lead, namely, that Christ is a mere man, is that of hundreds who acknowledge His historic existence. And still the truth for which the opponents of Arius contended, the divinity of our Lord and Saviour, is to the faithful the life’s life of their spiritual being,—

The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge Thee,

The Father of an infinite majesty ;

Thine honourable, true, and only Son ;

Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.

Whether, indeed, those who maintain that the Founder of Christianity, if a mere man, can be regarded as a good man, is one of the serious difficulties which must be faced by Socinians and their allies. This has been forcibly pointed out by writers of our own day, as by Canon Liddon in his “Bampton Lectures,” and by the author of a short treatise especially dedicated to its consideration. We believe that it will become more and more evident, to those who really study the question, that to maintain that Jesus Christ was simply human, and was yet humble and devout, is to defend a position which is logically inconsistent and untenable.





Athanasius stands in the front rank of that great contest to which reference has just been made. It is some satisfaction to find in the present day writers who either look on the matter from outside as calm spectators, or else are actually hostile to Christianity, entirely abjuring the notion that the cause, of which the Bishop of Alexandria was the prime champion, could possibly be one of trivial importance.

But, though Athanasius was the leader, he never found sufficient leisure for the production of any very long or elaborate treatise, and he only addressed those who could understand the Greek language. Here it was that Hilary came so powerfully to the aid of his fellow-labourer in the cause of truth. The act of Constantius, which for more than three years deprived the diocese of Poitiers of Hilary’s super­intendence, left the bishop at leisure, as has been remarked, for the composition of the twelve books “De Trinitate,” of which so many are occupied with a refutation of Arianism. This work was widely read, and it must have proved a mine from which men of less leisure and ability might extract a large mass of valuable material. It supplied all—some would say even more than all—to the readers of Latin, which was given by Athanasius in his “Orations against the Arians” to the readers of Greek.

It will be seen also, in our next chapter, that all the acts and writings of Hilary which tended to bring back Semi-Arians to the faith, must have, at least indirectly, had the effect of weakening the cause of Arianism. Among the writings having this object in view must be named Hilary’s treatise, “De Synodis,” and a history of the Councils of Seleucia and of Rimini, of which we have only fragments. Among his actions in the same direction, we must include his labours in France after his return from Phrygia; and also a visit to Italy.

To Hilary, as to Athanasius, the contest against Arianism seems to have presented itself in that light in which we have already attempted to place it namely, as a practical answer to the questions whether Christianity was worth preserving, and whether the doctrine of the Redeemer’s Godhead was an essential element of Christianity? If both these questions were to be answered in the affirmative, then exile, with loss of the charities and comforts of home life; then toil and thought and study; then conferences with supporters and with misguided opponents; then breaches of friendship with the authorities of the state; then even occasional misunderstandings with personal friends must all be worth enduring, in consideration of the example and commands of Christ, of the teaching of His Apostles, and of the greatness of the issue at stake, which embraces not only time, but eternity. “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world that I should bear witness unto the Truth Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Many deceivers are come into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an anti-Christ. It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.”

We inherit in peace the results of the toils and sufferings of these confessors of the fourth century. Is it well for us to criticise with severity any mistakes which they may have made ? to censure lightly any rare and occasional asperities of language which they may have employed ? or to be wholly careless and unthankful for the examples which they have set for their many wise and loving words for the victories won by them, of which we of later ages reap the benefits ?





We are all aware that, in contests concerning literature, or art, or politics, it is not uncommon to find men who are instinctively drawn to take a middle course. Such men would not in the field of letters take part wholly with what are known respectively as the classic or the romantic schools. In art they would shrink alike from the ardent denunciation of the Renaissance spirit which the author of “Modern Painters” and “The Stones of Venice” employs, and from the vehement reaction which has now set in upon the other side. In politics, they would, perhaps, proclaim themselves what we now call Liberal-Conservatives. Few but extreme enthusiasts would deny the possible rightfulness of such a posi­tion. Indeed, to many minds it comes with a prestige in its favour, as the exhibition of a judicial temper.

It must, however, be evident that such a principle carries with it dangers of its own. A famous Greek philosopher, from finding that, as a matter of fact, virtues generally lay between two extremes, one of excess and another of defect, actually taught that this was part of the essence of virtue, and introduced it into his definition. But the theory burdens his scheme of morals with difficulties, which he has not solved. Is it, for example, possible for a man to be really too just? Is it conceivable that a heart could be too pure? Surely more deep and true is the enunciation of our Christian philosopher, Bishop Butler, when he speaks of truth or right being “something real in itself, and so not to be judged of by its liableness to abuse, or by its supposed distance from, or nearness to, error.” Most especially must Butler’s remark be applicable to any truth which we believe that God Himself has revealed to us.

Semi-Arianism looks like one of these attempts to take a middle course, where no middle course was in reality possible. Viewed as a system of theology, Semi-Arianism is as untenable as Arianism. It involved, as has truly been said, the following contradictions: “That the Son was born before all times, yet not eternal; not a creature, yet not God; of His substance, yet not the same in substance; and His perfect and exact resemblance in all things, yet not a second Deity.” An English theologian of the last century, Dr. Clarke, who seems to have been almost a Semi-Arian, was asked whether upon his theory he supposed that God the Father could annihilate the Son and the Holy Ghost. After long consideration, he avowed himself unable to reply. Of course, he perceived that an answer either in the affirmative or in the negative would be equally fatal to his theory. If the Father could annihilate the Son and the Spirit, then they must be merely creatures. If he could not annihilate them, this could only be because they are one with Himself, of equal power, majesty, and glory.

Now, it might naturally be supposed from these considerations that the champions of the Nicene Faith would practically regard Semi-Arians in the same light as that in which they regarded Arians; and, indeed, there was one school of orthodox thinkers who did so regard them; who considered the differences between the two sets of opponents too slight to deserve consideration, and who made an absolute admission of the Creed of Nicaea a primary condition of intercommunion and peace. The leader of this section of the orthodox was Lucifer, bishop of Cagliari, or, as he is sometimes called, bishop of Sardinia, the island of which Cagliari is the capital. He was a brave and earnest defender of the faith, but not always wise or considerate.

But on this, as on almost every point of the controversy, Athanasius and Hilary, though separated and in different lands, thought and acted in almost perfect harmony and unison. They both perceived that, though as a theory Semi-Arianism had little if any claim to be thought superior to Arianism, yet that many of the Semi-Arians were in tone and temper of mind exceedingly different from the Arians, There was certainly a detachment of them who appear to have been reverent and unworldly, and who showed keenness in detecting and in repressing other errors of the day. Athanasius, in a well-known passage, declares that those who accepted all that was passed at Nice except the term of one substance (homoousion) were to be treated as brothers, whose difference was one of terms rather than of real meaning. He felt confidence that in time they would come to see its value and accept it.

This feeling pervades the treatise on Synods (“De Synodis”), a letter which Hilary, while still in exile, addressed to his brother-bishops in Gaul. They were probably disappointed to find that many of those who had supported the cause of truth at Nice had not shown wisdom or firmness when they returned to their sees; and they desired some explanation of the numerous professions of faith which the Orientals seemed to be putting forth. Their questions had a practical bearing, for the Emperor Constantius had ordered that two fresh councils should be held—one for the East, and one for the West of Christendom. The Western one was to meet at Ariminum, on the eastern coast of Italy, the place since known as Rimini,—

Where Po descends,

With all his followers, in search of peace.

The place of the Eastern gathering was at first fixed at Nicomedia; but on August the 24th, in 358, a terrible earthquake all but overthrew the entire city. At the time when Hilary wrote, Ancyra had in consequence been fixed upon, but ultimately Seleucia was chosen.

Now, Hilary was very anxious that his Gallic brethren, and also the British bishops, should come to Rimini in a charitable frame of mind towards the Semi-Arians. He praises his friends in Gaul in his “De Synodis” for their firmness in opposing the Arian bishop of Arles, Saturninus, and considers that they had done well in rejecting some unsatisfactory forms of expression put forth at a recent assembly held at Sirmium. But as regards the Semi-Arian watchword “of like substance” (Homoiousion) he would not have them reject it too hastily without examination. There were those who, from malice or ignorance, had misunderstood the orthodox term “of one substance” (homoousion) in such wise as to make it identify the Personality of the Son with that of the Father, and become, in fact, a symbol of Sabellianism. Now, as on the one hand the orthodox term might be perverted, so, on the other, was the unorthodox one capable of a good interpretation. Some of those who used it had been frightened from the use of the true word by the misinterpretation, and, when they said “of like substance,” did in reality mean to imply an identity of substance, as well as of power, majesty, and glory between the Father and the Son. Asia Minor in general is, writes Hilary, in a sad condition. “I do not speak of things strange; I do not write without knowledge; I have heard and seen in my own person the faults, not of laymen merely, but of bishops; for excepting Eleusius, and a few with him, the ten provinces of Asia in which I am, are, for the most part, truly ignorant of God.” Now this Eleusius, bishop of Cyzicus, was one of the Semi­Arians. With him Hilary also names, as distinguished for blamelessness of life, the bishops of Sebaste and of Ancyra, by name respectively Eustathius and Basil. The last-named was a man of high culture and learning.

From the champions of the Catholic faith in Gaul, Hilary turns to his friends among the Semi-Arians. He seems willing to concede the possibility of a creed being accepted which should embrace both terms; or that the Son should be described as “being of one and of like substance with the Father.” This would show that the orthodox did not mean to teach Sabellianism; it would also show that the difference between Arians and Semi-Arians was a vital one, while that between the Semi-Arians and Catholics was rather metaphysical and verbal, than in reality doctrinal. “Grant me,” says Hilary to the Semi­Arians, “that indulgence which I have so often demanded at your hands. You are not Arians; why do you get the reputation of being Arians by your denial of the homoiousion?” For his own part, Hilary had learned his faith from the New Testament, especially the Gospels. “Although I was baptised”— such are his words—“many years ago, and have held for some time the office of a bishop, I never heard the Nicene Creed, until just before the date of my exile. But the Gospels and the Apostles made me understand the true sense of the homoousion and homoiousion. My desires are pious ones. Let us not condemn the Fathers, let us not stir up the heretics, lest, in our attempt to banish heresy, we in reality cherish it.”

Such was Hilary’s endeavour to act as a peace­maker. It is frequently the fate of such to be suspected, sometimes upon one side, sometimes upon both sides. In the case before us, though the Semi­Arians were not prepared to act upon Hilary’s suggestions, they did not, so far as we know, complain of any misrepresentation of their views, nor question the good faith of the writer. But Hilary was not so fortunate on the other side. He ought, one would think, to have been considered above suspicion. His communications with the Emperor Constantius, which we must consider in another chapter, the tone of his commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, the very fact that he was now suffering exile as a confessor on behalf of the faith, should have preserved him from assault on the side of the orthodox. But there was an extreme wing, more Athanasian than Athana­sius himself—if the expression may be pardoned— who were for rejecting the very semblance of compromise, and thought that the proposals of Hilary had conceded too much to the Semi-Arians. The leader of this set was, as has been intimated, sincere and earnest, but somewhat harsh-minded, Lucifer of Cagliari. It must be owned that there were many Semi-Arians, who were unlike the three “very holy men” (sanctissimi viri) to whom Hilary refers; men to whose shiftings and whose want, either of clearness of understanding, or of straightforwardness of purpose, must have afforded some excuse to the Sardinian prelate. Of Hilary’s personal behaviour towards him Lucifer could not, however, have found any reason to complain. For Hilary, as soon as he heard of Lucifer’s objection to the “De Synodis,” sent Lucifer a copy of the treatise, with an appendage of notes of an apologetic character, concluded in a tone of thorough courtesy and gentleness.

One feature of Semi-Arian reasoning will fall naturally into our next chapter, because it was specially insisted on by the Emperor Constantius. But it will make our narrative clearer if we relate in this place the remainder of Hilary’s dealings with the Semi­Arians, although it may carry us a little beyond that period of his exile with which these chapters are specially concerned.

In the autumn of 359 the two councils summoned by Constantius actually met; the gathering of the Orientals being at Seleucia in Isauria, that of the Occidentals at Rimini. If the better-disposed among the Semi-Arians could have held their own at these two councils, it is probable that the recommendations of Hilary would have been virtually accepted, and comparative tranquillity have been restored. Possibly, however, after all it might have proved a hollow peace; and, if so, the disaster that ensued may have been overruled by God’s providence to lasting good. That disaster was simply this, that both at Seleucia and at Rimini the Semi-Arians were quite outmanoeuvred, though not precisely in the same manner, by the bolder and less scrupulous Arians. As a dweller, though a constrained one, in the East, as the bishop of an important see in the West, Hilary found his career inseparably blended with the acts of both these councils.

At that of Seleucia he was for a time personally present, having been, in fact, compelled to attend it by the secular authorities. There, amidst a gathering of about 150 bishops, Hilary found a comparatively small section of the supporters of orthodoxy, chiefly from Egypt; a considerable number of Semi-Arians, and a party of Ultra-Arians, who, from their watchword of actual unlikeness between the Father and the Son, are known in history as the Anomoeans. The language of this school so utterly shocked Hilary that he retired from the assembly. He had, indeed, effected some good by taking the opportunity of explaining the true position of his friends in Gaul. It may have also been partially owing to his influence that the leader of the Ultra­Arians, Acacius, found himself unable to carry out his own plans, though he contrived to win so much support from the Semi-Arians as to frustrate any decision in favour of the Creed of Nicaea.

In the Latin council held at Rimini the orthodox bishops were proportionally far more numerous, being no less than 320 out of 400. The imperial commissioners sent by Constantius found that their friends were so outnumbered, that the Nicene Creed would be almost certainly reaffirmed and Arianism again condemned. The council deposed these commissioners, and sent a deputation to Constantinople to inform the emperor of the sentiment pervading it. By delays, on the pretext that the barbarian war demanded his attention, and by threats, Constantius overawed this deputation. Valens, the Gallic bishop already mentioned in an earlier chapter, declared that he and his friends condemned Arius and Arianism, and all the well-known watchwords of the sect, such as the assertions that “there was a time when the Word was not”; that “he was a creature as other creatures”; and the like. But they entreated the defenders of the Catholic faith that, for peace sake, they would give up the term “of one substance” and adopt instead the assertion “that the Son was like the Father”. The majority gave way, and Valens exulted in his triumph. The condemnation of the error “that the Son was not a creature as other creatures ” necessarily left room for the inference that, after all, not merely as man, but even before His Incarnation, He was, in some sense, a creature. And the result of the Council of Rimini was made famous by the often-quoted words of St. Jerome, “that the world awoke one morning and groaned in its astonishment at finding itself Arian.”

It will, however, be seen that Hilary, after his return to Gaul, was not willing to refuse communion, as many of his allies desired, to all the bishops who had been led to sign the formula adopted at Rimini. In Italy, where he travelled for a time and spent more than two years of his later life (362-364), this conciliatory course was attended with partial, but only partial, success. But in his native land, where he had pursued it before the journey to Italy, it proved thoroughly efficacious. It detached the Semi-Arians from the Arians, and won them back to the truth. It led to the condemnation of Saturninus of Arles, and to the triumph of the Catholic faith on the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation throughout all the Christian parts of Gaul. The friend and pupil of Hilary, Martin of Tours, found, indeed, plenty to do in the way of conversion of his countrymen from heathenism in portions of the land yet unconverted; and a later generation had its own difficulties in southern France, in connexion with the difficult problems respecting grace and free-will, Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. But for the overthrow in Gaul, and beyond its limits, of the first grievous error concerning the adorable Person of the Redeemer of the world, our gratitude is chiefly due to the combi­nation of firmness with charity which marked the life and labours of Hilary.

If, then, we may venture briefly to sum up his sentiments towards the Semi-Arians, they would be found, if we mistake not, to run somewhat as follows :— il There is heresy, and there is heretical pravity. Heresy, or the denial of saving truth, may be uttered by many who are sound at heart, but who have been misled by want of intelligence and of perception of the points really at issue. But heretical pravity means something much worse than this; it is the enunciation of heresy in a really heretical temper of mind, and it can be detected by its tone of irreverence and its utter unscrupulousness with regard to means. Arius, with his appeals to the unworthy analogies of earthly generation, with the songs for drinking parties, which embodied his errors, with his supple courtliness and inveiglement of the civil power into his schemes, is the very type and embodiment of heretical pravity. But the Semi-Arians, though their creed may be hardly less erroneous, are in many cases far better than their creed. They have been often weak, often dull of perception, and unskilful in the use of terms, but I have found them often to be reverent towards Holy Scripture, learned, and blameless of life. Hence, what may seem at first an inconsistency, my uncompromising attitude towards the defenders of Arianism; my moderation towards the Semi-Arians. I have taken the men as I found them. For justification I may in this case, at least, appeal to the results. The judgment on my career I leave to the justice of posterity and the mercy of Him whom I have tried to serve.”





The title which is prefixed to this chapter is open to a technical objection. A critic might urge against it that Hilary came into contact with two actual emperors, and with another magnate who became an emperor during Hilary’s lifetime, though at the epoch when they met he was only recognised as an heir to the throne; as a Caesar, not as an Augustus. The two actual emperors were Constantius II. and Valentinian; the Caesar was the youth who was afterwards to be known to all time by the title of Julian the Apostate.

But the relations of the Bishop of Poitiers with Julian and with Valentinian, more especially with the former, were comparatively brief. Waiving once again, for the sake of convenience, chronological considerations, we may just state the nature of these relations, and then put them entirely on one side.

It will be seen presently that Hilary was suspected by Constantius of some interference of a hostile character in matters political. It is rather startling to find in Hilary’s second letter, addressed to that emperor (about 360, during his exile), the following language :—“I am an exile, not as the victim of crime, but as that of a faction. I have a weighty witness on behalf of the justice of my complaint, my lord, your religious Caesar, Julian.”

It is a singular circumstance, that although part of the episcopate of Hilary coincided with the short reign of Julian (361-363), so that the open apostasy of the dissimulating prince must have become known even in Gaul, we do not hear of any collision between these old acquaintances. It is possible that the intolerant edicts of Julian, which prohibited the Christians from teaching the arts of grammar and of rhetoric, may have hardly had time to operate in Gaul before the death of their author made them null and void; or that Julian may have been too busy with Hilary’s great fellow-labourer, Athanasius, to turn his theological attention from the East. “Julian, who despised the Christians, honoured Athanasius with his sincere and peculiar hatred.” From his own point of view Julian’s sentiments were perfectly natural. He was thoroughly convinced that, if he could crush the primate of Egypt, he would have comparatively little difficulty in overthrowing other rulers of the Church. Athanasius has received many marks of homage, from the days of St. Gregory of Nyssa to those of Hooker; but none, perhaps, more emphatic and complete than the bitter hostility of Julian. The emperor’s conduct in this respect was a real illustration of the well-known dictum of a writer of this century, that “nothing is more infallible than the instinct of impiety.”

But we must return to Hilary. Besides the brief and apparently favourable intercourse with Julian in Gaul, at the commencement of his episcopate, the Bishop of Poitiers was brought into contact on one occasion with the Emperor Valentinian. This emperor being at Milan in the year 364, the year of his accession, found Hilary at Milan engaged in a controversy with the bishop of that see, Auxentius.

Hilary was convinced, and apparently with good reason, that Auxentius was in reality an Arian at heart. As, however, the Bishop of Milan made an open profession of the faith proclaimed in the Nicene Creed, we can hardly wonder that Valentinian, viewing the matter as a politician, declined to listen to the evidence that could be adduced against the sincerity of this avowal. The emperor commanded Hilary to return to Gaul. Hilary displayed prompt obedience, but he published in the following year, 365, an epistle, in which he warned the faithful against Auxentius, against whom he certainly made out a strong case. We do not, after this, hear of any more intercourse between Hilary and the authorities of the State.

But, although the “Athanasius of Gaul  (as M. de Broglie justly calls Hilary) thus came momentarily across the path of a Julian at the commencement of his episcopate, and a Valentinian at its close, the real representative of the State with whom Hilary had dealings was Constantius the Second. The negotiations between the two lasted for five years (356-361), and were of a far more elaborately controversial character than Hilary’s dealings with Julian or with Valentinian. Indeed, we have three long letters addressed by Hilary to this sovereign. This summary of the facts of the case will, it is hoped, be thought to justify the limitation employed in the heading of the present chapter.

Constantius was a man who may fairly claim, perhaps, to be credited with good intentions, but it cannot be said that his ways of carrying them out were either wise or charitable. He seems to have cherished really strong convictions on behalf of the Christian religion as against heathenism. But he thought fit to turn against paganism the weapons of persecution which it had employed against the faith of the Cross. It is true that such force as he did employ was, for the most part, gentle, as compared with the savage deeds of a Nero, a Decius, or a Galerius; nor did the heathens of that age furnish any martyrs for their creed. Nevertheless, in thus changing the situation, Constantius was robbing the Church of Christ of one of her chief glories. She could no longer say that violence had again and again been employed against her, but never on her behalf. Her annalists are almost all agreed in condemning the sort of protection granted by Constantius as both wrong in principle and in every point of view a grave mistake.

The emperor, however, not only believed that severe laws against pagan modes of divination, the overthrow of heathen temples, and excessive immunities granted to the clergy, formed a genuine service to the faith, but he claimed in return the right of meddling largely with doctrine and with the controversies then rife concerning it. For secular rule he had some real gifts. Like his father, Constantine, he was skilled in military exercises; like him he could endure fatigue, was temperate in his repasts, and of unblemished moral character. But he was fussy and self-important; apparently all the more so, because he was conscious of a want of dig­nity of presence, being small of stature and slightly deformed in his legs. It was observed, that in public he would refrain from any gesture that might seem to compromise the stateliness he tried to affect, and would not so much as cough. He liked to display his taste for literature and for theology, and would indulge his courtiers with long harangues.

As Constantius was only one-and-twenty at the decease of his father in 337, some allowance might well be made for the vanity of one who found himself at so early an age in a position so exalted. But the increase of years and of experience did not in his case bring with it real growth of mind. No true largeness of ideas nor firmness of resolution marked the sway of Constantius. He did, indeed, pass by, without retaliation or notice, some very vehement and insulting addresses to him, more espe­cially those from the pen of Lucifer of Cagliari. But he was fond of acting upon secret informations, which the accused person could not answer; he was too often the prey of the last courtiers who had access to his ear. Among Christians the Arians were eminently successful in obtaining his favour, and, though that favour might prove fitful and inconstant, he perse­cuted at the same time the heathen on one side, and the defenders of the Catholic faith upon the other.

Consequently, it is not surprising that neither with historian, ancient or modern, believing or heathen, does the memory of Constantius the Second find grace. Ammianus and Gibbon are as severe as Socrates and Dollinger. Such was the imperial ruler with whom Hilary was specially confronted.

The three letters to which reference has been made were respectively addressed by Hilary to Constantius in the years 355, 360, 361

The first of the three is a plea for the toleration of the orthodox against the persecutions being inflicted upon them by the Arians—persecutions of a character both coarse and cruel. It appeared just after the bishops, led by Hilary, had taken the bold step of separating themselves from the communion of Valens, Ursacius, and Saturninus. A critic of our day, who is no mean judge of such a matter, calls attention to the skill, the tact and knowledge of the world displayed in the commencement of this epistle. Hilary begins by assuring the emperor of the thorough political submission of the Gauls to his sceptre.

“All is calm,” he writes, “amongst us; no perverse or factious proposals are heard; there is no suspicion of sedition; hardly a murmur is audible. We are living in peace and obedience. One thing only do we demand of your excellency—it is that those who have been sent into exile and into the depths of the deserts, those excellent priests, worthy of the name which they bear, may be permitted to return to their homes; and thus everywhere may reign liberty and joy.”

This language may remind us that Hilary had begun public life as a magistrate and a statesman. Even on political grounds, Hilary urges, the emperor is making a mistake. Among his Catholic subjects will be found the best defenders of the realm against internal sedition within, or barbarian invasion from without. He then proceeds to employ rather the tone of the philosopher :—

“You toil, O emperor, you govern the state by wise laws; you watch day and night, in order that all under your rule shall enjoy the blessing of liberty. God also has brought man to know Him by His teaching, but has not compelled him to do so by force. Inspiring respect for His commands through the admiration of His heavenly marvels, He disdains the homage of a will that was compelled to confess Him. If such constraint were employed, even in support of the true faith, the wisdom of the bishops would arrest it, and would say : ‘ God is Lord of all”. He has no need of an unwilling allegiance; He will have no compulsory confession of faith; we are not to deceive, but to serve, Him; it is for our own sakes, more than for His, that we are to worship Him? I can only receive him who comes willingly; I can only listen to him who prays, and mark with the sign of the Cross him who believes in it. We must seek after God in simplicity of heart, reverence Him in fear, and worship Him in sincerity of will. Who has ever heard of priests compelled to serve God by chains and punishment ?”

Moderate as this language may seem, it was not such as Constantius was in the habit of hearing. Probably, if he had at the moment been governing Gaul in person, Hilary would at once have been made sensible of the emperor’s annoyance ; but Julian, to whose charge the province had been intrusted, was busy in a camp at Vienne on the Rhone. He expected an attack of barbarians, and was wholly engaged in making preparation for the first of those successful campaigns which he subsequently waged against the Alemanni and the Franks. Saturninus of Arles gathered together at Beziers (then known as Biterra) a small number of his partisans, and at last, through the intervention of Constantius, obtained from the hands of Julian the formal document which rendered Hilary an exile in Phrygia.

This event, as we have observed, took place at the close of 356. The second letter of Hilary to Constantius was written fully four years later. It embodies a protest on Hilary’s part of innocence of all the charges which, he hears, are brought against him. He is still, he tells Constantius, for all practical purposes a bishop in Gaul, for his clergy listen to his injunctions, and through these he still ministers to his flock. He would gladly meet, in presence of the emperor, the man whom he regards as the real author of his exile, Saturninus, the bishop of Arles, and would like to be allowed to plead for the faith at the council which is about to be summoned (this is the council which ultimately met at Seleucia in 359). Meanwhile he is deeply conscious of the injury wrought to Christianity by the clashing of rival councils and varying professions of faith.

The emperor appears to have been anxious to see a creed drawn up which should not contain any phrase which was not to be found in Holy Scripture. This was a marked feature of the Semi-Arian case, and it must be owned that it is at first sight a highly plausible one; but it will not bear examination, for the very point at issue was what meaning was to be attached to this or that expression of Scripture. No commentator would be willing to be limited to the precise phraseology of the author whose writings he is trying to explain. As a plain matter of fact, at the present time it would be impossible to name any Christian community which has found itself able to act upon this theory. To carry it out in its integrity would almost require the employment of the original languages in which the Scriptures were written ; for a translation, as even a beginner in scholarship must be aware, very often almost of necessity partakes of the nature of a commentary.

The Arians themselves do not seem to have urged this plea. Indeed, on their part it would have been transparently absurd, for they had a whole class of watchwords, of which not one was to be found in Scripture—as, for instance, the phrases specially con­demned in the earliest edition of the Nicene Creed. Even on the part of the Semi-Arians it was inconsistent, for they, too, clung to the non-Scriptural term, homoousion, quite as persistently as their opponents did to their watchword.

Such is substantially the comment of Hilary upon the emperor’s demand. He praises Constantius for his anxiety that his faith should be Scriptural, but he maintains that this is precisely what he and his friends are trying to teach. Only Constantius ought to remember, that all those whom even he would denounce as heretics make precisely the same claim. The emperor’s allies had denounced, for example, Photinus and Sabellius; but Photinus and Sabellius both averred that their tenets were Scriptural. Montanus, who had employed the ministry of women who were apparently mad, had made the same claim. “They all talk Scripture without the sense of Scripture, and without true faith set forth a faith.”

Thus far the addresses of Hilary to Constantius had been, it is admitted on all sides, loyal, respectful, and thoroughly Christian in tone. “ It would be unjust,” says a writer, who is by no means unduly favourable to champions of orthodoxy, “not to acknowledge the beautiful and Christian sentiments scattered throughout his two former addresses to Constantius, which are firm but respectful; and, if rigidly, yet sincerely dogmatic. His plea for toleration, if not consistently maintained, is expressed with great force and simplicity.”

The words just cited, of course, imply a reference to the third letter. It must have been written a year after the date (360) in which the second was presented to the emperor.

During this time Constantius appears to have changed his plans. Hitherto, though not inflicting death upon any of the orthodox, he had employed the punishment of exile with great recklessness. Bishops in all directions had been dismissed, as has been observed, from their sees—we have abundant evidence besides Hilary’s on this point—without much care as to the district named. Thus Paulinus, bishop of Treves, a man of high and holy character, having been banished into an heretical district, had been driven to beg for bread. Moreover, some of their faithful presbyters had been compelled to work in the mines.

Nevertheless, it seems probable that, if Constantius had continued to pursue this policy, Hilary, though he issued protests and petitions (far more for others than for himself), might have continued to address Constantius in comparatively moderate language. He had apparently a strong conviction that such punishments wrought their own cure, were often over-ruled to good, and ultimately did injury to the cause of those Arians who sympathised with the emperor in his action and had in some cases (as in Hilary’s own) apparently suggested the victims.

But the emperor in the last years of his life—he died in 361—adopted a much more conciliatory policy. It was an illustration, to some extent, of the fable about the wind and the sun contending for the traveller’s cloak. Invitations to the palace, bribes, good dinners, imperial flatteries were freely lavished; and it seems to have been found that many who would have been proof against harsh measures were really influenced by these allurements.

On almost the only occasion in his life of which we have any evidence, Hilary now thoroughly abandoned the tone of moderation which he generally employed. Constantius, by this change of policy, became in his eyes the worst of enemies to the truth; a very Antichrist, who would fain make the world a present to Satan. He appeals to the evidences of his own former moderation; but the time for gentleness has gone by. For his part he would thankfully see back again the time when the little-horse and the stocks, the fire and the axe, were plied against the faith of the Cross.

“But now we are contending against a deceitful persecutor, against a flattering enemy, against an Antichrist Constantius, who does not scourge the back, but pampers the appetite; who does not issue proscriptions that lead us to immortal life, but rich gifts that betray to endless death; does not send us from prison to liberty, but loads us inside the palace with honours that bribe to slavery; does not torture the body, but makes himself master of the heart; does not strike off heads with the sword, but slays the soul with gold does not in public threaten with fire, but in secret is kindling for us a hell; does not aim at true self-conquest, but flatters that he may lord it over us; confesses Christ for the purpose of denying Him; aims at unity for the destruction of true peace; represses heresies, but in such wise as would leave no Christians; honours priests, that he may do away with bishops ; and builds the Church’s walls, that he may destroy her faith.”

Then presently, with fresh vehemence, but with perhaps some measure of inconsistency, Hilary pro­ceeds to accuse Constantius of, at least, some partial and local persecution of a more direct character:—

“To thee, O Constantius, do I proclaim what I would have uttered before Nero, what Decius and Maximin would have heard from me. Thou art warring against God, raging against the Church, per­secuting the Saints. Thou hatest those that preach Christ, thou art overthrowing religion, tyrant as thou art, no longer merely in things human, but in things divine. A doctor art thou of lore profane, and, untaught in real piety, thou art giving bishoprics to thine allies, and changing good ones for bad; thou art committing priests to prison, thou arrayest thine armies to strike terror into the Church; thou closest synods and compellest the faith of the Orientals to become impiety. Those who are shut up in one city thou dost frighten with threats, weaken by famine, kill with cold, mislead by dissimulation. So, most wicked of mortal men, dost thou manipulate all the ills of persecution, as to shut out the chance of pardon in the event of sin, and of martyrdom where there is confessorship. This hath that father of thine, that murderer from the beginning, taught thee—how to prevail without insult, to stab without the sword, to persecute without infamy, to indulge hatred with­out being suspected, to lie without being discovered, to make professions of faith while in unbelief, to flatter without kindliness, to act, carry out your own will, while yet concealing that will.”

This letter has not unnaturally been the one sp­cial object of attack with those who are inclined to lower Hilary. Men, who have no strong convictions of their own, imply that they would have always kept their temper under similar circumstances. But it is far less easy to judge such cases fairly than might at first sight be supposed. Sarcasm and invective almost always seem lawful weapons when employed on our own side; then they are just reproof and holy in­dignation. But turned against us they look like irreverence, and seem to carry with them their own condemnation. “If,” as Mohler remarks, concerning the case before us,—“if we drive men to despair, we ought to be prepared to hear them speak the language of despair.”

Even those who, while sympathising in the main with Hilary, may think his language excessive, and that he would have been wiser to preserve his more usual tone, must allow that his excess was not on that side to which men are generally most tempted. From the pagan orators of the day Constantius heard nothing but the language of flattery—flattery which on their part could not possibly have been sincere. And when we remember to how many teachers of religion undue subservience to the great has at some time of their life proved a snare—a list including men so different as Martin Luther, Laud, Bourdaloue— when we think of the special temptations of our own Church and age, we ought to make some allowance even for the excesses of those who have, at least, been preserved from what Bishop Andrewes teaches us to pray, “ from making gods of kings.”

We have given the very fiercest passages of this celebrated epistle, because neither on this nor on any other topic in Hilary’s career do we wish to conceal anything. How far it is censurable in point of temper and of wisdom will always probably remain a point on which men must be content to differ. But two or three features of the case to which we have already made partial reference deserve some further consideration before we pass a judgment on it.

In the first place, Hilary, as a student of classic literature, was probably (though Quintilian was his favourite author) more or less familiar with the speeches of the greatest of Roman orators. Now, the eloquence of Cicero is certainly not always free from gross personalities; he can be, says one of his latest editors—Mr. Long—“most foul-mouthed.” There are passages in the oration which Juvenal selects as Cicero’s grandest effort, the second Philippic against Mark Antony, which are far more insulting than any sentences of Hilary; and it would be easy to multiply examples of this fault. Many of the readers of the epistle to Constantius would, more or less consciously, judge the document as a piece of Roman literature, and from such a point of view it would not greatly startle or astonish them.

But this, it will be said, is to put out of sight that Hilary was not a Roman consul, but a Christian bishop. The answer to such a charge shall be stated in the language of a living English judge : “ It must also be borne in mind that, though Christianity expresses the tender and charitable sentiments with such passionate ardour, it has also a terrible side.” Gentleness is not its only characteristic. There are times when not only the seers of old, but the Prophet of prophets, found stern objurgation a necessity. Remove all such elements from the Gospel records, and they become at once a different book. If, then, the possibility of need for such reproof is proved by the highest and holiest of all examples, we may indeed question the manner or the degree in which it has been followed by Christ’s servants, but we must not say that it is in itself necessarily wrong or unneeded.

There is one more consideration which specially applies to English Churchmen. All systems and communions, even those of divine origin, being human in their working, must needs possess their weak sides. Now, it is to be feared that the accusation made against the Anglican communion of an undue leaning towards the side of temporal authority is not without some real foundation. The charge, though since reiterated by foes, has been made by more than one of her own sons. Careful study of our own faults, and earnest desire to amend them, are amongst the best pledges, under divine favour, for amendment alike in individuals and in societies. We may not have any­thing to show in this direction so deplorable as the flattery of Louis XIV. by the great French preachers of his age; but in this matter Anglicanism is not blameless. Let us, then, bethink ourselves whether, since the present so deeply influences our judgments on the past, we may not unconsciously be inclined to judge with injustice those who have found themselves in a position of resistance to constituted authority in the State.

What, in effect, would have been produced upon the mind of Constantius by the letter of Hilary, we cannot tell. Gibbon describes the character of the emperor as a compound “of pride and weakness, of superstition and cruelty.” But Constantius had, nevertheless, shown considerable indifference to written attacks, and might possibly have judged silence to be in this case also the wisest course. At the moment, however, when the letter was published, Constantius was dying, perhaps actually dead. He expired, after a short illness, on the 3rd of November, 361, in Asia Minor, not many miles from Tarsus, and was succeeded by his nephew, the gifted and too celebrated Julian.





Those who are at all familiar, even as bystanders, with the practice of law-courts, may frequently have observed the presence of the following well-known element of discussion. Counsel on one side refer to some dictum of a distinguished judge, such as a Lord Hardwick or Lord Stowell, as involving a clear anticipation of the cause now being debated, and as virtually guiding the court in the direction of a particular decision. It is replied on the other side that no one questions the great weight which is given to the rulings of the high authority just cited, nor its application to the point which is now mooted. But, it is added, the sentence does not occur in the actual decision of a matter duly argued before the judge and pronounced upon accordingly. It only comes in incidentally, perhaps, by way of illustration; and it is obvious that the judge had never brought all the powers of his mind to bear upon the subject. It is merely a saying by the way, or, in the Latin phraseology which is commonly applied to it, an obiter dictum. Under such circumstances it is justly felt that the weight of the pronouncement is greatly lessened.

Now this principle is one of wide extent. It is applicable to inquiries into the rulings of scientific authorities and to general literature. To few departments of study is it more applicable than to the field of patristic literature; and Hilary of Poitiers is cer­tainly one of those thinkers whose writings call for an equitable and charitable consideration from this especial point of view.

On four main themes Hilary must be pronounced to have been eminently successful. They are as follows:—First comes his natural and suggestive style of commentary on Holy Scripture, more particularly on the Book of Psalms and the Gospel according to St. Matthew. In the second place, he deserves a place among those who have given us highly interesting and valuable information concerning the mental process whereby they were led from the errors of paganism into the acceptance of the Christian faith,—a place less exalted perhaps than that of some other Fathers (as, for example, St. Justin Martyr and St. Augustine), but, nevertheless, a very high one. Thirdly, he is great in delineation of the spiritual nature of the Godhead as opposed to the dark and often degrading perversions into which the heathen nations had fallen. And, lastly, as has already been implied, he is a champion (we may say in the west, the champion) for the great dogmas of the full and perfect Divinity of our Lord and Saviour and the Holy Trinity in Unity. Some faint idea of his work in these four departments we trust to be able to give, through extracts, in a succeeding chapter.

But there were some other very important questions concerning the union of two natures in the One Person of the adorable Lord, of the completeness ofHis manhood, and of the way in which He redee med us, which had not, in the age of Hilary, received the amount of attention which their interest and importance would seem to invite. It is important to bear this in mind, if we would judge any of the early Fathers with fairness. Our own creed on these points is made up of a number of elements welded together. It is not easy to name anywhere a more masterly statement concerning the Incarnate Lord than the one given in the second of the Thirty-nine Articles. But those brief and balanced sentences are the outcome of many struggles. Not only Arius, but also Nestorius and Eutyches, have contributed towards them, in that by their respective heresies they necessitated this formu­lation of the true doctrine with the aid of Athanasius and Hilary, of Cyril and of Leo. Nor is this all. It is hardly too much to say that the view of the Atonement most ordinarily taught amongst us is, in its form, a medieval doctrine. It is, in the main, as Archbishop Thomson has pointed out, the theory of Anselm, elaborated and improved by Aquinas.1 Now, Anselm was archbishop of Canterbury in the reign of William Rufus, at the close of the eleventh century (1097), and Aquinas wrote in the middle of the thirteenth century, at least 150 years later.

Besides a few incidental mistakes (such as the supposition that Moses, like Elias, was still alive), Hilary seems at times to fail in grasping the doctrine that our Lord took His human nature from the Virgin Mother, of her substance, and to miss the distinction implied in the words, that, although He who is God the Son suffered, yet the Godhead did not suffer. In his anxiety to refute the Arians, he appears, at least in one passage of his treatise, “De Trinitate” (lib. x.), not merely to represent the Deity as impassible, but to deny the reality of our Lord’s sufferings. It is pos­sible that he did not really mean this, and certainly other parts of his writings look the other way. Nevertheless, the language of the “De Trinitate” must be regarded as incautious, and as demanding considerable charity of interpretation.

Such mistakes must needs appear to us all the more strange, because the doctrines, to which refer­ence has just been made, not only come before us as a part of the heritage of the Church universal, but also find expression of a clear and emphatic kind in Holy Scripture. Thus, to take but one passage out of many, the language of St. Paul, “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman,” is decisive on one point; and the texts in the writings of the prophets, in the Gospels and in the Epistles, which dwell upon the importance of the sufferings of Christ as an essential part of His atoning work, are as abundant as they are pathetic and wonderful. But it must be borne in mind, that in the age of Hilary the canon of the New Testament was barely settled. Indeed, Hilary’s great compeer and fellow-champion, Athanasius, was the first bishop who is known to have issued to his diocese a list of the books recognised and read in Church canonical scriptures. Hilary was living in a somewhat out-of-the-way part of Christendom. Up to the eve of his banishment he had never heard the Nicene Creed, though he had taught its doctrines,1 and it may well have happened that some portions of the New Testament were less well known to him than others. But, even if this were not the case, it must probably be admitted that sympathetic appreciation of our Lord’s sufferings was brought out more strongly in the mediaeval than in the patristic ages. This would only be one illustration out of many of the correctness of the language of the historian, Evagrius, and of St. Augustine, as also of a well-known passage in Bishop Butler’s “Analogy,” to the effect that know­ledge in things divine has been attained in the past, and will be attained in the future “in the same way as natural knowledge is come at, by the continuance and progress of learning and liberty, and by particular persons attending to, comparing, and pursuing intimations scattered up and down the Scripture, which are overlooked and disregarded by the generality of the world.” For the same reason, namely, that it had not yet been debated, the language of Hilary concerning the Holy Spirit seems less clear and emphatic than is desirable.

On the whole, it seems reasonable to consider that the two principal mistakes of Hilary were of such a nature that they would have become very grave and serious, and have imperilled the purity of the faith, if they had been clearly reasoned out and insisted upon by him. But this never came to pass: they were not, at the moment when he wrote, the questions at issue. Moreover, it is highly probable that in a later generation, when the errors of Nestorius became manifest, Hilary would have perceived his mistakes, and have proved willing to explain and to retract. As against the deadly heresies of his own day, he must ever be acknowledged as a con­fessor; as a great, and, under God’s good providence, a highly successful champion.





If the career of a man, who has been eminent in the world of thought and of action, has confessedly been marked by some outbursts of vehemence and some errors of judgment, we must expect to find at least two lines of criticism adopted concerning him. There will be those who, having only a half liking, or possibly even an antipathy, to the cause represented by him, will dwell most upon the defects; there will be others who, without positively denying the failings or mistakes, will regard them as the proverbial spots upon the sun, the incidents of human frailty which may virtually be ignored, in consideration of the trials which he underwent and the noble service which he rendered.

Hilary of Poitiers so lived and so wrote that we might expect beforehand to meet with such a variety of opinion as that above indicated. In his case, the decision depends more, perhaps, upon tempera­ment than upon the ecclesiastical position of the critics. The Protestant Daille is among those who judge Hilary with severity; the Protestant Dorn er is enthusiastic in his admiration. Erasmus, who, despite all that he effected on behalf of the Reformation, ultimately remained Roman Catholic, certainly gives full weight, to say the least, to what may be regarded as the blemishes of Hilary’s writings ; other Roman Catholics, as the Benedictine editor and the charitable Mohler, see the bright side only, and ignore or excuse whatever has been urged by the assailants.

Gibbon declares, that “Erasmus, with admirable sense and freedom, has delineated the just character of Hilary.” This is, in our estimation, a rather excessive eulogy. However, the opinions of such a man as Erasmus must always deserve consideration; and we propose, as fairly as we can, to give a brief account of his essay on Hilary, and to attempt to rate it at its true value. Possibly, even Erasmus himself, if he had known Gibbon, might have considered praise from such a quarter a slightly questionable gift.

Erasmus declares that editors had in many places modified the language of Hilary in order to make it seem more orthodox. In some cases of this kind noted by Erasmus, the language of Hilary is quite defensible; and it does seem that Hilary himself would have been the last person to claim infallibility for his writings. “ Such felicity,” writes Erasmus, “ God willed to be peculiar to the sacred Scriptures only. Outside these, no man, however learned and keen-sighted, is free from occasional lapses and blindness; to the end that all might remember that they are but men, and should be read by us as men with discrimination, with judgment, and, at the same time, with charity.” Hilary, in the opinion of Erasmus, hesitated for some time before throwing in his lot with the cause of the Athanasian and the Nicene Creeds. Possibly, says the critic, he thought it a good cause, but hopeless; possibly he had not fully made up his own mind. To us the latter of these theories seems not only the more charitable, but infinitely the more probable of the two.

The “De Trinitate” is the book, says Erasmus, on which Hilary lavished all his strength. It stands to his mind in the same relation in which the Georgies do to that of Virgil, the story of Medea to that of Ovid, the “De Oratore” to that of Cicero, and the “De Civitate Dei” to that of St. Augustine. In the judgment of Erasmus, there are parts of this work which approach the borders of a dangerous curiosity. Now this must always be a profoundly difficult problem. Who is to draw the line between what is, and what is not, lawful speculation in things divine? The stricture of Erasmus is a far-reaching one, and it may be reasonably doubted whether he was quite the man to make it. How greatly the judgments of good and wise men may differ in such matters may be illustrated by a single instance. We are accustomed in England to hear a famous divine of the Elizabethan age spoken of as “the judicious Hooker.” Yet, not only has the correctness of the title been questioned by Coleridge, but a more trust­worthy critic, an eminent English bishop of our time, has expressed the opinion, that parts of Hooker’s fifth book may possibly be thought to go beyond the bounds of safe speculation.

Erasmus, while wishing that theological learning would restrain its definitions within the bounds of Scripture (a somewhat ambiguous expression), yet admits that even in apostolic times it was heresy that led to fresh expressions of truth (the Cerinthians and Ebionites having necessitated the composition of the Gospel of St. John), and, ultimately, to the formation of creeds. In the case of controversy, says Erasmus, we must make allowance for men being carried away. Thus Tertullian, waxing fierce against some divines of his day who were paying too much honour to matrimony, rushed into the opposite extreme. The language of St. Jerome on the same subject is indefensible, if it be judged with strictness. St. Augustine, warring with all his energies against Pelagius, assigned considerably less to our free will than do the reigning theologians of our day, that is to say, the fifteenth century.

These remarks of Erasmus appear to be just and fair. In relation to Tertullian and Jerome, it may be alleged (as a gifted and eloquent lecturer of our time has said) that in certain ages there was a fanaticism of the ascetic principle, in another age a fanaticism of scholarship, while in our own day there appears to be in some quarters danger of a fanaticism of physical science. The remark of Erasmus in refer­ence to St. Augustine would certainly meet with large acceptance, alike in the nineteenth as in the fifteenth century.

But Erasmus passes on to the application of these remarks to Hilary. In the first place he censures the vehemence of his language against the Arians. We are not inclined to defend it; but it must be observed that Hilary had to deal with a peculiarly treacherous and aggravating specimen of Arians in the case of Auxentius of Milan, and still more so in that of Saturninus of Arles. If all wielders of such weapons—and, after all, they are but occasional with Hilary—are to be struck out of the list of those who have rendered signal benefit to the Church, that list must be considerably reduced. That it was the men themselves, and the whole tone and spirit of their warfare, that provoked Hilary is clear from the great difference of his attitude towards the Semi­Arians. If it be urged that such palliation is only a result of the theological hatred (odium theologicum) of all time, it must be replied that the Arians fare but little better in this respect in the pages of writers by no means conspicuous for love of orthodoxy. It is sufficient to refer the student who questions this assertion to the works of Dean Milman, and even of Gibbon.

But a further objection on the part of Erasmus affects the fame, not of Hilary merely, but of the Church at large. The struggle, says Erasmus, concerned matters far removed from the grasp of human intellect. To this it must be replied that, as there may be a false charity, and a false justice, so, too, there may be such a thing as a false ignorance. Christians believe that God has given them a revelation, and that in essential points the meaning of that revelation can be proved. The great fact remains, that while the endlessly shifting creeds of the Arians and their allies have perished, the Nicene Creed, for which Athanasius and Hilary contended, is still an honoured and valued portion of the heritage of Christendom, still holds its place as a part of the highest act of Christian worship.

If I, says Erasmus, had lived in the time of Hilary, I would have uttered warnings and teachings against the Arians, but I would not have called them Satans or Antichrists.

We are all, more or less, creatures of our age. Most assuredly, in few instances, is this more manifest than in the life and character of Erasmus. He was a product of two great movements, the Renaissance and the Reformation. From the former he derived the keen and polished style of his admirable Latinity; from the latter his spirit of assault upon the corruptions of the Roman Catholic system. An Erasmus of the fourth century can hardly be imagined. Thus much, however, we may safely concede to him. If he could have been a contemporary of Hilary, Erasmus would not have written with vehemence against the Arians, it was not in his nature to do so; but we should have had from his pen keen, Incisive satires on their writings, their proceedings, their relations with the Court, the fluctuations and inconsistencies of their multitudinous creeds. On some minds the weapons thus wielded would have produced more effect than any amount of hard names and vehement protestations. To others they would have seemed far more exasperating. But, just as Principal Robertson has remarked, that of the abuses thundered against by Luther, there was hardly one that had not been previously atirized by Erasmus, so, probably, it would have been in the fourth century. An Erasmus of that date, if such a personage could have existed, would have left denunciation to Hilary of Poitiers, to Lucifer of Cagliari, and a few more; but his own share in the contest, however prominent, would have taken another turn, and have been of a different kind.

But, continues Erasmus, if, in the writings of Hilary himself, some want of grasp on the Person of the Holy Spirit, on the derivation of our Lord’s human nature from the Virgin Mother, and on other points of importance seem to require a charitable interpreter, what right had such an author to speak so vehemently of the errors of others ?

There is certainly force in this consideration. More light, more knowledge of weak points in his own theology, might have induced Hilary, and many more before and since, to be more guarded in their language towards opponents. Still, it must be granted, that on few points are we all more likely to be prejudiced than in the matter of satire and of invective. When used upon our own side they seem most lawful weapons, justified by the attitude of an Elijah towards the priests of Baal, by St. Paul towards the Corinthians, by a higher and holier example in the censure of the Scribes and Pharisees. But when we find them turned against our friends, or against the supporters of a cause we cherish, they then become mere headlong temper or irreverence. Assuredly, to refer to a single illustration, the wit of the “Provincial Letters” of Blaise Pascal appeared to his Jansenist allies the most legitimate of instruments; but against his Jesuit opponents he had to defend the style which he adopted. In like manner the language on opposite sides of a Calvin and a Maldonatus, of a Wicliff and his adversaries, will be viewed differently by members of reformed and unreformed communions.

Erasmus says that there may have been good and pious Arians, sincerely convinced that they were right. Hilary might at least reply, that he had met such men among the Semi-Arians, and had treated them with the respect and courtesy which they deserved, but that his personal experience of Arian opponents had been the very reserve of the imaginary portraiture made by his critic.

Erasmus considers that, in his commentary upon St. Matthew, Hilary has too freely adopted the allegorical mode of interpretation pursued by that great genius Origen, from whom he borrowed largely. This is very possible; but to draw the exact line of demarcation between lawful and unlawful use of allegory is a task of much depth and difficulty, on which we cannot here pretend to enter further than protest against any such employment of it as would explain away the historic truth of the great events of our Lord’s human career, His birth, His crucifixion, His resurrection, and His ascension.

Of the judgment of Erasmus on another point of less importance, namely, the question of style, we have already spoken. The fastidious taste of Erasmus—unquestionably a master of elegant expression—is slightly dissatisfied with Hilary. He thinks that Hilary is wanting in severe simplicity; that in translating from Greek authors he infused a grandiloquence to which Gallic authors of that day were somewhat prone. However, Erasmus admits that Hilary’s style has marked individuality. Moreover, as regards want of simplicity, he errs in good company, for his critic considers that scarcely any provincial writers of Latin, save a few who had lived at Rome from boyhood, can be acquitted of faultiness in this respect.

Curiously enough, Erasmus does not find any fault with the vehement letter against Constantius, but is inclined to think the previous epistles to the emperor to be slightly reticent and over-courtly.

He has pointed out the faults of Hilary, he declares, not in order to dim the glory and insult the reputation of a most holy and learned man, but for a warning to the bishops and theologians of his own day. Some defenders of the Papacy in his time are quite outrageous, and call a man a schismatic if he detract anything from the authority of the Bishop of Rome. We could ill spare the works of Origen and Tertullian, Chrysostom and Jerome, Augustine and Hilary, nor are even Aquinas and Scotus, says Erasmus, wholly out of date. The authority of Hilary is evidently ranked by Jerome even above that of Ambrose and Augustine. At any rate (says our censor in conclusion), he was a great man, and his chief work displays genius, eloquence, and great knowledge of Holy Scripture.

It may seem, perhaps, as if this chapter ought to have been headed “A Critic of Hilary”; and it is true that it has been almost exclusively devoted to the opinions of Erasmus. No other writer, save the Benedictine editor, has gone so fully into detail. But we turn from the strictures of one who, with all his merits, is inclined to be rather carping and fas­tidious, and proceed to set down the more generous if less critical testimonies of some primitive and modern authorities.

Here, for example, is the judgment of St. Augustine, written about a.d. 400, concerning Hilary:— “An illustrious doctor of the Churches. A man of no light authority in explanation of the Scriptures and assertion of the faith. A keen defender of the Catholic Church against heretics.”

St. Augustine’s learned and gifted contemporary, St. Jerome, is even more emphatic in his eulogies. Alluding to the former eminence of some divines in secular station, Jerome asks : “Do not that holy and most eloquent man, the martyr Cyprian, and Hilary, a confessor of our own age, look like men who were once like lofty trees in this world’s garden, but who afterwards built up the Church of God?” Else­where Jerome speaks of Hilary as “the Rhone of eloquence… one in whose writings the piety of the faith never wavers. ... A man whose writings I have traversed, and found no stumbling-blocks for my feet.”

If the consent of those who in many respects are at variance adds weight to testimony, the evidence of an antagonist of Jerome, Rufinus, becomes important. Now Rufinus calls Hilary “a confessor of the Catholic faith,” and adds, that “his book against Auxentius is one of most ample information.”

Some fifty years later (i.e. about 450) we find the ecclesiastical historian, Socrates, describing the efforts made by Eusebius, bishop of Vercelli, in company with Hilary, to oppose the progress of Arianism in North Italy. “These two,” writes Socrates, “strove nobly side by side for the faith. Moreover, Hilary, who was an eloquent man, set forth in his books in the Latin language, the dogmas of The One Substance, and powerfully confuted the Arian dogmas.” The learned Benedictine, Dom Ceillier, is also entirely on the favourable side.

In the Middle Ages the best construction was placed upon any doubtful expressions of Hilary by the first occupant of the see of Canterbury after the Norman Conquest, the illustrious Lanfranc ; by the author of the famous “Four Books of Sentences,” Peter Lombard, bishop of Paris; and by the greatest of the schoolmen, St. Thomas Aquinas. This state­ment implies, what is no doubt the case, that some critics had been less favourable. But with the ex­ception of an early one, Claudianus Mamertus, they were not men of mark.

Since the Reformation the Gallican historian, M. Noel Alexandre (better known by his Latinised appellation of Natalis Alexander) may be named among the apologists for Hilary; and a still more energetic defender, the Benedictine editor of his works, Dom Coutant. The Anglican, Cave, is also favourable.

Coming down to our own century, we find among the severe critics of Hilary the rationalistic Baur of Tubingen. But in the opposite camp stand devout and careful thinkers, both among ourselves, as Canons Bright and Robertson, and also among Roman Catholics and Protestants on the Continent. The Duc de Broglie in his “Church and Empire in the Fourth Century,” justly entitles Hilary “the Athanasius of Gaul,” and, as we have seen, calls attention to his tact and knowledge of the world as well as to his loftier qualities. Another Roman Catholic, the learned and charitable Mohler, had previously, in his “Athanasius the Great,” given a brief comment on the aid afforded to the famous Bishop of Alexandria by his brother-bishop of Poitiers. “Thus,” writes Mohler, “did St. Hilary develop with ability and depth his ideas on the essence of the faith and its relations with science; on the Catholic Church and its relations with heretics in general, and his own age in particular.”

Pope Pius IX, towards the close of his long pontificate, declared Hilary to be a doctor of the universal Church. Our Roman Catholic fellow-Christians do not seem agreed among themselves how much is meant by this title; but it must of course be intended to imply a general recognition of orthodoxy. No one, however, among modern theologians seems to have devoted so much time and attention to the writings of Hilary as the Lutheran Dorner in his deep, original, and learned volumes on “The Doctrine of the Person of Christ.” Dorner is enthusiastic in his admiration, possibly too determined to ignore even the slightest blemish in this Father of the fourth century. But his defence deserves deep consideration, because he has studied the writings of Hilary, and especially the “ De Trinitate,” with such zealous care and sympathy. Anticipating the judgment of Pius IX by a whole generation, Dorner sums up his analysis of him in the following words, with which we may well conclude the present chapter:—

“Our attention is, above all, attracted to Hilarius of Pictavium. We feel the more drawn to him, because he does not appear hitherto to have met with the consideration he deserves. Hilarius is one of the most difficult Church teachers to understand, but also one of the most original and profound. His view of Christology is one of the most interesting in the whole of Christian antiquity. Hilarius evinced himself to be, in the true sense, a teacher of the Church.”





It is high time to let Hilary speak for himself on some of the subjects which he treated.

We commence with a few extracts from the first book of his treatise, “De Trinitate,” relating to the grounds of his conversion to Christianity, of which we attempted to give a general idea in the first chapter of this volume.

Hilary first lays down and comments on the proposition that the happiness which is based on mere ease and abundance cannot be reckoned as much superior to that enjoyed by a considerable portion of the brute creation. Most men of worth have, at any rate, got beyond this point, and have seen both the need of cultivating certain virtues, inasmuch as a good life evidently required good actions and sound under­standing. They have also felt within themselves that it was improbable that a Being Who had bestowed upon us such gifts should have intended that our existence should be bounded by this earthly life. So far—and here Hilary has with him certain earlier con­verts, as, for instance, St. Justin Martyr—he went with the heathen philosophers. Hilary then proceeds as follows :—

“ Now, although I did not consider their sentiments on these points either foolish or useless, when they taught us to keep our consciences free from all fault, and in respect of the troubles of human life to meet them by foresight, avoid them by judgment, or bear them with patience, nevertheless, these men did not seem to me thoroughly competent guides towards the attainment of a good and happy life. The precepts they laid down were obvious ones, and in accordance with good sense. Not to admit them were but brutish, while to grant them and yet not to act upon them would seem like madness, surpassing the senselessness of brutes. But my soul felt a strong impulse not merely to do those things which to leave undone would be alike criminal and a source of woes, but to gain the knowledge of that God Who is the author of all our gifts, to Whom our being owed itself, in the service of Whom it would feel itself ennobled, to Whom it. must refer every conception of hope, in- "Whose goodness it could rest amidst the great troubles of our present condition as if in a safe and most friendly harbour. To understand or to grasp a knowledge of Him my soul was enkindled with a desire that burned within me.”

After speaking of the unworthy opinions of the ancients, whether atheistic (denying God), or polytheistic (as of gods many and lords many, degraded by human passions); or of a god—and this seemed the most general opinion—who existed, indeed, but was utterly indifferent about the affairs of earth; of gods in the likeness of cattle or confined within stocks and stones, Hilary proceeds as follows :—

But my soul, rendered anxious amid such thoughts, struggled to find a road useful and needful for the attainment of the knowledge of its Lord. It did not recognise as worthy of God a carelessness about things which He had Himself created; it per­ceived that sexes in the Godhead, and successions of parents and children, were incompatible with a powerful and imperishable nature; yea, further, it held for certain that what was Divine and Eternal must needs be One and indivisible. For, being the author of its own existence, it must of necessity leave nothing outside it more excellent than itself. Thus, then, almightiness and eternity could be properties of One alone. For in almightiness there could not properly be any 1 stronger’ or ‘weaker’; nor in eternity any ‘latter’ or ‘former,’ since in God was nothing to be adored save that which was power and eternity.”

In the next section he tells us what he learnt from the Scriptures:—

“While thinking over these and many kindred subjects, I lighted on the books which the religion of the Hebrews has handed down to us as written by Moses and the prophets. In these were contained the following words, whereby the God the Creator testifies concerning Himself: ‘ I am that I am,’ and again : ‘ Thus shalt Thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you. Much did I marvel at an utterance concerning God which was so complete, which described in language so suitable for the human understanding the incomprehensible know­ledge of the divine nature. For of God we perceive that no property can be more specially His than to be; since the very fact of His existence is the mark of One Who is neverending and had no beginning. That which is everlasting, with the power of blessedness unalloyed, never has been, or will be, able to be non-existent, since all that is divine is liable neither to destruction nor to commencement. And, since the eternity of God never lacketh anything that is needful, worthily doth He set forth the fact of His being as an evidence of His own imperishable eternity.”

Hilary proceeds to comment upon other passages of Holy Scripture connected with this theme which had specially arrested his attention, such as, for example, Isaiah lxvi. i, 2 ; Psalm cxxxix. To these he devotes some pages, and shows how, in combination with a passage from the Book of Wisdom, xiii. 5, they led him onward to further comprehension of the infinite and omnipresent nature of the Creator and of the beauty of the Divine Being, as evidenced in the order and beauty of creation. These thoughts confirmed in his mind that conviction of immortality which even natural reason had suggested. But the teachings of the Old Testament were wonderfully deepened and invigorated by one of the books of the New Dispensation—the Gospel of St. John. He cites the well-known verses from the first chapter (the precise passage selected for the Gospel on Christmas Day), and then makes the following remarks on the results of studying them :—

“The mind has its intelligence carried beyond the powers of the natural senses, and learns more than it heretofore conceived concerning God. It learns that its Creator is God of God; it hears that the Word is God, and was with God in the beginning.”

After briefly paraphrasing the remainder of the passage, Hilary proceeds with a fresh section, of which the heading runs thus :—

“The Son of God is God. To become sons of God is a power vouchsafed to us, but not a necessity. The Son of God was made man, that man might be made the son of God. Christ is very God, and very man.”

The section proceeds :—

“Here the alarmed and anxious mind finds more hope than it looked for. In the first place, it is tinged with the knowledge of God as a Father; and the conception it formerly entertained through natural reason concerning the eternity, infinity, and beauty of its Maker, it now understands to be the property also of the only-begotten God. It does not relax its faith so as to believe in more gods than one, because it hears of ‘ God of God.’ It does not have recourse to the notion of a diversity of nature between God and God, because it learns that ‘God from God’ is full of grace and truth; nor does it imagine any precedence, or the reverse, in point of time, because it finds that God was in the beginning with God.”

A little later on he adds :—

“This doctrine of the divine mystery my mind embraced with joy, advancing towards God through the flesh, being called through faith to a new birth and endowed with a power for the attainment of a heavenly regeneration; recognising the care of his Parent and Creator towards it, and convinced that it would not be reduced to nothingness by Him Who had called out of nothingness into its present state of existence.”

Hilary accepted the doctrine concerning the divine attributes and the Incarnation, not as discoverable by natural reason, but as attained by the boundlessness of faith. But he evidently thought them not to be opposed to reason, for his understanding could, in some measure, understand them if only it believed. He dwells much on this, quoting freely from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, and then speaks of the probation for the world to come which is given in this life, in a brief section, headed with the words, “ Faith in Christ removes both fear of death and weariness of life.”

“In this repose, then, conscious of its own security, had my mind, rejoicing in its hopes, rested; and so far was it from fearing the interruption of death as to regard it as the entrance into life eternal. But this life in the body it by no means regarded as miserable or painful to itself, but simply believed it to be what medicine is to the sick, swimming to the shipwrecked, learning to young men, military service to future commanders; that is to say, an endurance of the present state which should avail as preparation for the prize of a blessed immortality. Further, what it believed for itself, it also undertook to preach to others through the ministry of the priesthood laid upon it, extending the gift it had received into a work for the salvation of those around it.”

The “De Trinitate” consists of twelve books. This number might have arisen out of the natural growth and progress of the treatise without any special design. But, if a reason for its choice were’ to be sought, we might imagine that it had been suggested by the number of the months of the year, or of the tribes of Israel, or of the Apostles. Jerome, however, in­forms us that the ground of Hilary’s choice lay in the fact that a classical writer, whom he greatly admired, the critic Quintilian, had divided into twelve books his treatise upon Oratory.

In the first book, as we have seen, Hilary main­tains the reality of natural religion, and describes the manner in which its votaries are likely to be led onward to the acceptance of the revelation contained in the Holy Scriptures. The next four books discuss the baptismal formula recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew; the union of the two natures in the One Person of Christ; and the testimony in favour of the Catholic faith on these subjects, which may be adduced from the writings of the prophets. The two following books (that is to say, the sixth and seventh) contain arguments, not only against the error of Sabellianism, on which we have already touched, but also on that of Manichaeism.

Manichaeism will come before us again in this little volume when we reach the case of Priscillian in connexion with the life of St. Martin. Its assertion of two independent principles, a good and an evil one, mutually opposing and thwarting each other, is not destitute of a certain plausibility from some facts of nature. In the generation succeeding that of Hilary,  Manichaeism found some very able defenders and expositors. How great a fascination it possesses for some minds is shown by the fact that it enchained for eight years the mighty intellect of St. Augustine.

The seventh book presents a feature not uncommon in ancient and in modern works of philosophy. Hilary maintains that the errors of the Ebionites (who taught that Christ was purely human), of the Arians (who made Him as nearly divine as a creature could possibly be), and of the Sabellians (who asserted a unity of personality as well as of substance in the Godhead), were mutually destructive of each other. Thus these errors, if rightly viewed, tended to confirm the convictions of true believers. “ Their strife is our faith” says Hilary. The eighth book is a demonstration of the unity of God. It shows that the eternal Sonship of Christ in nowise destroys that unity. The faith “does not take from the Son of God the position of the Only-begotten, but neither does it through that introduce a divinity of two Gods.”

The remaining books of the “De Trinitate” are chiefly occupied with further refutations of Arianism, more especially in relation to single texts of the New Testament, which the Arians claimed as favourable to their doctrine. Throughout the treatise there are many admirable warnings, well worth the attention of readers in every generation, of the spirit in which Holy Scriptures should be studied. We subjoin two of these.

Here is our author’s description of those who, as it were, patronise the faith rather than cherish it.

“There are many who, feigning faith, are not really subdued to the faith; men puffed up by the breath of human emptiness, who establish a faith for them­selves instead of truly accepting it.”

Again : “He is the best reader who waits to gain from the words the sense of what is said instead of imposing a meaning on them, and who carries away their teaching instead of reading a doctrine into them.

A few more passages may serve to give a fuller notion of Hilary’s general style. But at this point the reader may feel inclined to ask whether, beyond a generally able and devout treatment of his great theme, the author of the first extended treatise in the West has anything special to tell us, anything which has a bearing on theological questions of our own time. For if he only discourses in a pious and lofty vein con­cerning knowledge, which we may find set forth with still greater precision by opening our Prayer-books and reading carefully the three Creeds and the first five of the Thirty-nine Articles, then an acquaintance with Hilary’s chief work may be elevating and improving, but can hardly be called suggestive, or, in the fullest sense, one that now tends to edification.

It must be answered, that on at least one point which has not yet been thought out, nor received all the attention which it deserves, Hilary’s view is not only interesting and original, but has also a direct bearing upon the questions of our day.

That question is the following :—When we read in certain passages of Holy Scripture (as, for example, especially in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, II. 7), that the Son of God “emptied Himself,” how much does this imply in the way of acceptance on the part of our Lord of the limitations of our human ignorance ? That he condescended to learn, in a new way, through the medium of those human powers which for our sake He had adopted, truths which He had known as God from all eternity, is a statement generally accepted by theologians. But did He, whose personality resides in His divinity, place, as it were, in abeyance during his sojourn on earth any portion of that power and knowledge which He had ever enjoyed in Heaven ? It is perhaps hardly too much to say that orthodox writers, who claim our respect from learning and character, give somewhat different answers to this question.

Now, Hilary certainly suggests an answer. He considers that “the taking the form of a servant” involved the consequence that the Incarnation was not from the beginning complete—that is to say, that as the form of the Godhead belongs to Christ’s divinity, and He divested Himself of this form during His earthly life, He did not, until His exaltation, join to our human nature the complete essence of the Godhead. Not that there was in Christ at any moment any cessation of His divine existence. That could not be. He remained always God, and capable at any moment of resuming His true form. But of His own free will, according to Hilary, He from time to time subjected Himself from the day of His Incarnation to that of His resurrection to those weaknesses of suffering and of ignorance to which humanity is liable. When, however, He displayed acts of power, and when He uttered words of divine wisdom; He was resuming and reasserting the action proper to His full and perfect Godhead.

As, however, we are able to refer our readers else­where for further illustrations of what is most peculiar to Hilary, but at the same time most difficult, we prefer to set forth a few practical passages which have not hitherto been rendered into English, nor, we believe, into any modern language.

Some extracts from the second book of the “De Trinitate” will serve to show how keenly Hilary felt that these discussions were undesirable in themselves, but rendered necessary by the restlessness of heresy.

“It used to be enough for believers to receive that word of God which by the testimony of the Evan­gelist was poured into our ears with the actual power of its own truth, how the Lord says, ‘Go ye into all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I command you; and lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world.’ For what is there that is not therein contained concerning the mystery of the salvation of mankind ? Or what is there that is defective or obscure ? For all the words are full, as coming from Him who is full; and perfect, as coming from Him who is perfect But we are compelled by the faults of heretics and blasphemers to do what would otherwise be unlawful, to climb up lofty heights, to speak on matters beyond the powers of human expression, to presume, where full knowledge has not been vouchsafed to us. And whereas the divine precepts ought to be fulfilled by faith alone— namely, the adoration of the Father, the veneration of the Son, the abounding in the gifts of the Holy Ghost, we find ourselves compelled to extend our humble powers of discourse into regions where lan­guage fails, and we are forcibly driven into a faulty province of thought by reason of the faults of others. Themes, which should have remained free from discussion because of our reverent scruples, are thus forced forward into the perilous sphere of human speech. For many have arisen who interpret the simplicity of heavenly words in accordance with a sense imposed on them by their own will, not that which the actual force of what is said demands.”

Hilary mentions by name, though only in a passing way, some Gnostic sectarians, and (a little more in detail) the error of Sabellius, already noticed by us, and of the Ebionites, who represented the Redeemer as a mere man, though miraculously born of the Virgin Mary. He then declares his own anxiety, and the reluctance with which he undertakes the task of attempting to explain things truly :—

“Assuredly, to me, when I attempt to reply to these men, there arises, as it were, a seething tide of cares. There is the risk of slipping as regards the sense, there is the feeling of stupefaction in the province of the intellect; and one must confess, not merely that language is infirm, but that one’s very speech is silence. In truth, the actual will to make the attempt is extorted from me, with the design of resisting the rashness of others, of meeting and confuting error, of providing instruction for the ignorant. The very nature of the subject devours the significance of words, the light that cannot be penetrated blinds the contemplation of sense, and that which passes all bounds exceeds the capacity of the understanding. But we, imploring the pardon of Him who is all these things, are about to dare to seek, to speak; and—which is the only fitting pledge in so deep an investigation—we shall avow our belief in what has been revealed.”

After speaking of the provision for the coming of Christ, Hilary expresses himself as follows on the Incarnation, surely not without much power and freshness:—

“Now in what follows we see the dispensation of the Father’s will. The Virgin, the birth, the body; and subsequently the cross, death, Hades, are our salvation. For the sake of the human race was the Son of God born of a Virgin, through the Holy Spirit, Himself ministering to Himself in this operation; and by His own, that is, God’s, overshadowing might implanting the germs of a body for Himself and the beginnings of mortal flesh : so that being made man he might receive into Himself from the Virgin the nature of flesh, and that through the alliance of this conjunction there might stand forth in Him a sanctified body of the entire race; that as all may be built up in Him by the fact of His willing to take bodily substance, so again He might be shed back upon all through that in Him which is invisible.

“ Therefore did the invisible image of God shrink not from the shame of a human beginning, and through conception, birth, the cradle, and infant cries traverse the entire course of the reproach and humiliations of our nature. What worthy return can be made by us for the affection of so vast a condescension? ”

Then, after a few eloquent lines on those seeming contradictions between the infinite and finite natures thus meeting in Christ, on which pious contempla­tion has ever loved to dwell, Hilary adds :—

“If any one shall cherish the idea that such things are unworthy of God, let him be led to confess that he himself is so much the more beholden to Him for the benefit received, in proportion as all this seems unbefitting to the divine Majesty. He, through whom man was created, needed not to become man; but we needed that God should become flesh and dwell among us, that by the taking to Himself the one flesh He might dwell in the innermost recesses of the flesh of the human race at large. His humi­liation is the ennobling of us, His reproach becomes our honour; that He as God should abide in our flesh is in turn a renewal of us from fleshly nature into God.”

We turn to our author’s commentaries on Holy Scripture. It seems desirable, in a sketch of this kind, to confine our attention to such books of Hilary as are unquestioned. For this reason we shall pass by certain commentaries on the Pauline Epistles, and the fragments of a colloquy upon the book of Genesis, which has been lately put forth as the work of Hilary by the learned Benedictine, Hom Pitra.

Hilary probably intended to have composed a commentary upon the Book of Psalms. But he either did not carry out this design, or else a large portion of the book has been lost. There are only extant his remarks on Psalms I, II, IX.-XIII, LI.-LXIX, XCI-CL. Hilary was not a proficient in Hebrew learning. Such knowledge was rare among the Fathers of the first five centuries, Origen and St. Jerome being the only conspicuous exceptions. Hilary, like most of his contemporaries, was com­pelled to trust mainly to the famous Greek translation known as the Septuagint. He enjoyed, however, the advantage of the commentaries of the famous Alexandrian divine, Origen. His general line lies midway between that of critics who are solely engaged in urging the literal sense, and those who are exclusively intent upon the Christian application of the words to the Church and to its divine Head. It is right to notice that Hilary prayed God to give him a true understanding of His Holy Word, and that he returned thanks in a modest spirit for such light as had been vouchsafed to him. We give a few specimens of his treatment.

He explains to us how we are to understand Jerusalem in the Psalms.

“The Jerusalem which is in heaven, which is our mother, which is the city of the great King, of which I think those are now inhabitants who rose again at the time of our Lord’s passion.”

On Psalm cxix., part 16, “Mine eyes fail for Thy salvation, and for the words of Thy righteousness,” Hilary writes:—

“The eyes fail when the sight, looking out eagerly for the fulfilment of some expectation, grows wearied. Now the Psalmist fixed the eyes of his soul on the salvation of God. What must be understood by the salvation we have frequently explained; namely, that it is Jesus, who shall save His people from their sins. While others then filled their eyes with the desires of the world, and directed them towards the pleasures of the present life, the Psalmist fixed his on the salvation of God. Nor let us sup­pose that his eyes failed merely with the effort of contemplation. They do not rest only on the salvation of God, but also on the proclamation of His righteousness. He confesses, then, the just proclamations of God. He knows that there are some, which, by the thoughtless and impious, are reckoned as unjust utterances: when the heart of Pharaoh is hardened to contumacy, and the obstinacy of an irreligious will is imputed to him; when, of two nations yet unborn, it is told that the elder shall serve the younger; and when, though neither has wrought any good, subservience is imposed on one, domination given to another; when Adam is expelled from Paradise, that he may not eat of the Tree of Life. These things men, unable to enter into the idea of divine excellence, goodness, and justice, determine to be unjust, simply because they cannot understand them. But the eyes of the Psalmist fail in looking on the just utterances of this sort. For he knows that there is no injustice in these words of God, but that, at the advent of God our Saviour, these decisions are to be consummated, and will be perceived by us to have been works of justice.”

Presently, on the words, “Deal with Thy servant according to Thy mercy” (cxix. 124): —

“For there is need of His mercy that we may abide in the profession of our service. Weak is human infirmity in the way of gaining anything; this is alone its natural duty to will, and to begin, to enrol itself into the family of God. It is the work of the divine mercy to help the willing, to strengthen the beginners, to welcome those who have come to Him. But we must do what we can in the way of beginning, that He may make perfect.”

Hilary is certainly emphatic upon the side of our position as free agents; more so, perhaps, than Augustine would have altogether approved of. Prayer, study of God’s Word, fasting, preservation of purity, are all to be employed, and through them we are to place our hope on the mercy of God, which is, after all, the one great resource. But our fasts and alms must be undertaken in a right spirit, and not casually. t

“We (this is on Ps. cxix. part 19), if we fast once, think that we have done enough; if we give anything to a poor man out of the abundance of our private property, we believe that we have fulfilled all righteousness; when, perhaps, our fasting has been done to please men, or to relieve a frame wearied with feasting; and even during our fasts we meditate on lawless passion, on wrongs to be done to others, on hatreds; and our giving has arisen from our being tired at the poor man’s knock at the door, or from our craving for a reputation for goodness in the vain and idle judgment of men. And then we think it due to us that our petitions should be heard by God; but the Psalmist hopes for all from God, looks for everything from His mercy. He fulfils, indeed, all the works of goodness, but he does not think this enough for salvation, unless he obtains mercy according to the compassions of God and His judgments.”

We give one more specimen from a comment on Ps. cxl. 6, “I said unto the Lord, Thou art my God.”

“It is the mark of no light and scanty confidence to have said unto the Lord, Thou art my God. A mind given up to lust, to avarice, to self-pleasing, to drunkenness, cannot utter those words. All these things must we renounce, and put an end to our subservience to them and acquaintance with them, that by such renunciation we may dare to say, ‘ I have said unto the Lord, Thou, art my God?”

Hilary proceeds to show that all true Christians are warranted in making these words their own, but that Christ could use them in a manner special and peculiar to Himself; and that He did virtually so employ them on many occasions, such as the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, at the raising of Lazarus, and at the acceptance of His cup of woe in the garden of Gethsemane.

It is curious to find the Saracens mentioned by a bishop of Gaul at so early a date. In the comment on Psalm cxx. 5 (on the words, “that I dwell in the tents of Kedar”), Hilary writes, “ These are the men now called Saracens.” The name became only too familiar to his countrymen between 1100-1270. It is also a curious coincidence that the famous victory of Charles Martel in 732 over the Saracens, which saved France and Europe from their domination, was won in the district between Poitiers and Tours, the episcopal seats of the two bishops whose careers we have attempted to elucidate in the limits of this humble volume.

The commentary on St. Matthew is the earliest in the Latin tongue on any one Gospel, just as the treatise on the Holy Trinity is also the first that was published in the Western Church. We find it more difficult to give specimens of this commentary than of the reflections on the Psalms. Possibly, as a rule, it seems less striking, or, perhaps, we look for more on such a theme especially if we are at all acquainted with the richness of an Augustine or a Chrysostom, or of treatises formed out of a number of authors, or with modern writings based upon such.

Here is a passage on the Transfiguration :—

“But while He was yet speaking a bright cloud overshadowed them, and they are encompassed with the spirit of divine power. A voice from the cloud proclaims that this is the Son, this the Beloved, this He in Whom the Father is well pleased, this He Who is to be listened to; so that, after the condemnation passed on Him by the world, the voluntary submission to the cross, He might be recognised as the fitting author of true teaching, as having confirmed by His own example the glory of the heavenly kingdom to be given to bodies after decease by the resurrection from the dead. He roused His disciples from their state of dread and alarm. Him they see alone Whom they had witnessed standing between Moses and Elias. He bids them preserve silence respecting the events they had witnessed until He should rise from the dead. For this was reserved as a reward for their faith, that honour might be given to disciples who had accepted, as in no wise light, the authority of his precepts in themselves. Still He had perceived that they were weak as yet for the hearing of the voice. When they were filled with the Holy Spirit, then should they be witnesses of spiritual events.”

The following is his comment on the feeding of the Four Thousand (Matt. xv. 36, 37):—

“The material supplied is thereupon increased, whether on the spots marked out as tables, or in the hands of the dispensers, or in the mouths of the eaters, I know not. By this deed the framer of the universe is made manifest.”

In an earlier passage (xiv. 19) he refers to the holy Eucharist as “the heavenly food of eternal life.”

The other works of Hilary will, in part at least, come under our notice in subsequent chapters. One of the most important, in his own day, was the one entitled “On Synods” (“De Synodis”). It was a letter written by the Bishop of Poitiers during his exile in Phrygia to his brother bishops in Gaul. It was what we should now call an Irenicon beseeching all possible gentleness of consideration for the Semi-Arians, and putting the best construction that could be allowed upon their phraseology while appealing to them; at any rate, not to deny the lawfulness of the term “of one substance” (homoousion) even if they were not yet prepared to accept it. In adopting this course Hilary was (though it would seem independently) taking the same line as his great compeer, Athanasius. But there were not wanting those who thought that Hilary had conceded too much. Their opinions found a spokesman in a brave, outspoken, but somewhat harsh-minded, defender of the faith, Lucifer, bishop of Cagliari. A rejoinder to Lucifer by Hilary was printed for the first time by the Benedictines in their edition of Hilary’s work in 1693. It is couched in terms of great courtesy. But this treatise demands a chapter to itself.

Very different in tone is Hilary’s book against Auxentius, bishop of Milan. But, then, Auxentius really seems to have been a double-minded man, who pretended to be orthodox, but was really an Arian at heart. It was written in 365, and will be brought before the reader as we proceed.

Some further notice must be taken of a lost historical work which Hilary composed between the years 360 and 366. Written against two Arian bishops, Valens and Ursacius, it contained a history of the Councils of Rimini and Seleucia. The frag­ments, first published in 1598, are of considerable value, and have been only employed by modern historians of the Church, as, for example, Canons Robertson and Bright. But the suspicion, to say the least, of early interpolations necessarily lessens the authority of the collection. The contest concerning the documents contained in it is rendered all the more keen, inasmuch as, if the whole were accepted as genuine, the case against Liberius, bishop of Rome, would be much strengthened. That some of the fragments do not deserve our confidence must, we think, be conceded by unbiassed disputants.

During his exile in Phrygia, Hilary learnt, either directly or indirectly, that there was some prospect of his daughter, Abra, being sought in marriage, though she was only in her thirteenth year. Hilary wrote a letter, drawing a picture, in somewhat mystic language, of the heavenly bridegroom, and with it he sent a morning and an evening hymn. The letter evidently hints that the bishop would prefer hearing that his daughter had resolved to embrace a life of celibacy. But he desires her to use her own judgment, and on any difficulty in the letter or in the hymns Abra is to consult her mother.

Some readers may possibly look for the expression of opinion on the question whether the life and writings of St. Hilary have any very direct and important bearing upon the points at issue between ourselves and our Roman Catholic fellow-Christians. The answer must probably be in the negative, if direct evidence be sought for. So far as indirect evidence is concerned, it seems to the present writer (though this will be put down perhaps to Anglican prejudice) that what is to be found is, in almost every case, hostile to the claims of Rome. Let us glance at four points: development; the honour to be accorded to the Virgin Mother of the Lord; the position of the Bishop of Rome; and the general question of authority.

1. Undoubtedly the works of Hilary do suggest the existence of a doctrine of development. Such a doctrine is implied also in the writings of the historian Evagrius in the fifth century, and, again, very frequently in the writings of St. Augustine. But it need not involve more than this—that, to use the words of Augustine, “many things pertaining to the Catholic faith, while in course of agitation by the hot restlessness of heretics, are, with a view to defence against them, weighed more carefully, understood more clearly, and preached more earnestly; and the ques­tion mooted by the adversary hath become an oc­casion of our learning.” Thus much was always granted by the late Professor Hussey, of Oxford, in criticising the theory of Cardinal Newman and his allies. But it had been preached before the same university by Dean Hook many years earlier—before the rise of controversy upon the subject.

2. As regards the honour to be given to her whom all generations shall call blessed, the language of our author seems at times to fall short of that employed by great Anglican divines such as Bishop Pearson, Bishop Bull, and many more. Even in the strongest passage which virtually concedes the title of Theotokos, or God-bearer, which is so thoroughly recognised by the Anglican doctors, Hilary speaks of the Virgin as having to endure the severity of God’s judgment at the Last Day.

3. Hilary had certainly an exalted opinion of the position of St. Peter as spokesman and leader of the Apostolic College. But this of itself proves nothing. In the works of St. Cyprian, of Bishop Pearson,1 we find a similar recognition, but unless it is further conceded that the Bishop of Rome is successor tothe powers of St. Peter, in a sense which is untrue of other bishops, nothing  is proved.

4. The truth seems to be that Hilary conceded authority to conscience, to Holy Scripture, to Church councils, without ever putting forth any theory of the precise weight to be accorded to each element. How he was himself led on by conscience and right reason is clear from the first extract given in this chapter. As regards Holy Scripture, it must suffice in this place to point to the same passage, and to Hilary’s assertion that he had learnt the doctrine contained in the Nicene Creed from the New Testament, though he had never heard the creed itself until he was on the point of exile. At a later date he seems to countenance the statement in Newman’s “Arians” that too many of the bishops who had been present at Nicaea did not stand up boldly for the faith on their return to their dioceses; and that its preserva­tion was, in many cases, mainly due to the courage and fidelity of the Christian laity.

In his journey into North Italy, and his travels in those parts with Eusebius of Vercelli, there is not a word of any permission being asked of the Bishop of Rome. Indeed, some of the strongest evidence respecting the fall of the Roman Pontiff, Liberius (who, for a time, gave some degree of countenance to Arianism), is derived from a collection of letters originally made by Hilary, though subsequently it would seem interpolated. In the words of a living Roman Catholic historian, the Due de Broglie, “ it seems impossible to destroy the concurrence of testimonies which attest the fall of Liberius; but we admit that it is very difficult to determine the extent and the character of his false step.” But a more detailed examination of this subject must be reserved for a later chapter.

On the whole, Hilary seems to write and to act in the spirit of the often-quoted saying of St. Cyprian, to the effect that “the episcopate is one of which each bishop possessses an unlimited liability.” A bishop evidently supporting heresy, in Hilary’s judgment, lost his rights, and the Bishop of Poitiers was prepared to wield the influence conferred on him not only by his ecclesiastical rank, but his character for courage and ability in defence of the Catholic faith, wherever it might be assailed. This view of Hilary’s position and career is, at any rate, not inspired by any of those insular prepossessions of which British writers are often accused. It struck the eminent Roman Catholic divine, Mohler, who, as we have already remarked, has justly applied to Hilary the words used by Gibbon concerning the contemporary work of Athanasius that, “ in a time of public danger, the dull claims of age and rank are sometimes superseded.”

That we may not, however, close this chapter with merely controversial thoughts, we subjoin a few more extracts from Hilary’s greatest work, the “ De Trinitate,” which must commend themselves, we would fain hope, to every Christian mind.

“It is perfect knowledge so to know God, that thou shouldst know Him to be not indeed one who is shrouded from our knowledge, but one whose nature we cannot worthily express. We must believe in Him, recognise Him, adore Him, and by such duties ought we to express what He is.”

Again : —

“God, in His love for the world, exhibited this proof of His love, the giving of His only-begotten Son. If the proof of His love had consisted only in setting forth a creature for creatures ; giving for the world that which was of the world ; and redeeming beings sprung from nothing by a being sprung from nothing like themselves; a sacrifice thus weak and unimportant would not call forth a faith of great worth. But precious is that which evidences love; and great­ness is measured by what is great. God, in His love for the world, gave not an adopted Son, but His own, the only-begotten. In Him is the real property of the Father, nativity and truth, no mere creation, nor adoption, nor semblance. The pledge of God’s love and charity is to have given for the salvation of the world His own and only-begotten Son.”





Although in a previous chapter we have given a slight general idea of the circumstances which induced Hilary to compose1 his treatise on the Synods, yet the importance of the book demands, even at the risk of a slight repetition, some further notice, and that more lively idea of its character and tone which will, we trust, be supplied by the translation of some portion of its contents. The full title of this letter runs as follows:—“On the Synods of the Catholic Faith against the Arians, and against Perverters of the Faith who take the side of the Arians.”

The address of this treatise presents a rather difficult study in what may be termed the ecclesiastical geography of the time, that is to say, at the close of 358, or the commencement of the year following. Literally translated, it runs thus :—

“To my most beloved and blessed brethren and fellow-bishops of the provinces of the first and second Germany, the first and second Belgica, the first and second Lyonesse, of the province of Aquitania, and the province of the Nine-Nations, of the Narbonian province, especially the people and clergy of Toulouse, and to the bishops of the British provinces, Hilary, the servant of Christ, wishes eternal salvation in God and our Lord.”

It would probably be impossible, and hardly worth while even if possible, to trace the precise bounds of the various provinces here named. But commentators have succeeded in discovering, in most instances, the name of the ecclesiastical metropolis of each; and this knowledge gives a very fair general notion of the people whom the Bishop of Poitiers was addressing. These headquarters of Church authority stood as follows (for convenience sake we give the modern names):—For the first Germany, Mainz (or Mayence); for the second Germany, Koln (Cologne); for the first Belgica, Trier (Trèves); for the second Belgica, Rheims; for the first Lyonesse, Lyons; for the second Lyonesse, Rouen; for the province of the Nine-Nations (roughly corresponding with Gascony) a town near the present site of Agen. The special mention of Toulouse probably arises from the circumstance that its bishop, by name Rhodanius, had been kept firm in the faith, though of a yielding nature, by the influence of Hilary,1 and was at this time involved in the same sentence of exile. As regards the last in this list, the provinciarum Britannicarum episcopi, it must be observed that they are bishops long antecedent to the mission of St. Augustine and the establishment of Dorobernium or Kenttown (for such is the meaning of Cantuaria), now known to us as Canterbury, as the seat of the primacy. For Hilary is writing, at the latest, in 359, whereas the date of St. Augustine’s mission is 597.

Hilary begins by explaining that he had for some time thought silence best. But he understands that the rarity of communication on the part of his brethren in Gaul has arisen from the distance caused by his exile, and the actual ignorance on the part of many of the country to which he was banished. But he now hears, to his delight, that for three years his brother-bishops have refused communion to Saturninus; are thoroughly at heart with him who now addresses them ; and have not only declined to accept, but have condemned, the formula drawn up by an assembly held at Sirmium. Hilary proceeds thus :—

“ I have now felt it to be a duty and an act of piety to transmit, as a bishop to bishops who hold communion with me in Christ, the conversation of salutary and faithful discourse ; so that I, who in my fear of uncertain issues was congratulating myself on my personal freedom from all these difficulties, might now rejoice in the integrity of our common faith. O unshaken firmness of your noble conscientiousness 1 O strong house built on the foundation of the faithful rock. O uninjured and undisturbed constancy of an inviolate will!”

Hilary assures his friends that the news of the firmness and decision of their faith has, even at this late hour, produced considerable effect upon the temper and conduct of some Oriental prelates, who had given way to the decrees promulgated at Sirmium. He now writes, however, not merely to congratulate them on their behaviour and its good results, but also to answer the inquiries addressed to him by some among them as to the positions taken up by the Orientals. The task thus imposed upon him is a difficult one; for, if it is hard to put into words one’s own belief, it is still harder to set forth the belief entertained by others. He will try his best. Only let them be sure to read his epistle to the end, and not to judge him until that is done. In that case he is not without hope that crafty heretics may fail in their attempts to deceive, and that the sincere upholders of the Catholic faith may attain what they so much desire. Hilary then describes those mutual suspicions of the Oriental and Gallican episcopate, to which reference has been made in a former chapter; how the language of the Westerns seemed to their brethren in the East to be tinged with Sabellianism, while in turn the bishops in Gaul supposed their fellow-prelates in Asia to be in danger of lapsing into thorough Arianism.

It is necessary, in the first place, then, for Hilary to show forth with all possible definiteness, the precise tenour of the protests made by the Orientals against the decrees of the Council of Sirmium (the one known as the Second Sirmian, held in 357); “not,” he says, “that all this was not most clearly published by others, but because an exact verbal translation from Greek into Latin generally causes obscurity. Since the care taken to preserve a parallelism between the actual words employed cannot succeed in creating the same definite impression upon ordinary understandings.”

Let it be permitted to us to remark, in passing, that this is a problem of all time, and not confined to translations from Greek into Latin. The Venerable Bede refers to the same difficulty when he attempts to give a Latin version of a hymn of the earliest Anglo-Saxon poet, Caedmon; and a great master of language in our own day, John Henry Newman, has also dwelt upon it in two of his Anglican works. To find it, however, acknowledged by Hilary is peculiarly gratifying to one who, like the present writer, is. among the first, he believes, who have attempted to present certain portions of Hilary’s own writings in an English dress. Hilary could not complain if he found that an English version of his own writings occasionally became a paraphrase.

It is curious to find Hilary in some degree anticipating the criticism of Erasmus upon the question of ignorance, and evidently intimating that to pretend ignorance concerning that which has been clearly revealed amounts to an abnegation of duty. Among the sadder elements of the story told in the “De Synodis,” is that of the ambiguous Creed of Sirmium being signed by Hosius of Cordova, who had been one of the leading bishops on the orthodox side at Nice, possibly the actual president of that famous council. Hilary, however, does not appear to have been aware of some mitigating circumstances. The creed, assigned in the “De Synodis ” to the actual penmanship of Hosius and another, was in all pro­bability not actually composed by that prelate. It may be said that this is a fact of minor importance, if, after all, Hosius set his signature to this fallacious document. But we learn from other sources that he was more than a hundred years old when he thus, acted, and, further, that it was under the pressure of torture.

Hilary criticises this document (known as the Creed of Sirmium) with great ability, showing on the one hand where it falls short of the full truth, and on the other what large admissions heretics were now willing to make, as feeling the pressure of Scriptural authority. Having already pointed out the weakness and inconsistency of the Semi-Arian creed, we need not here dwell upon our author’s analysis of it Hilary passes on to an account of a synod held at Antioch. This was a synod of high repute held in 341, on the occasion of the dedication of a church of which Constantine himself had laid the foundations. The main object before the ninety bishops who composed it was to condemn, not Arianism, but the Sabellianism which had sprung up since the date of the great gathering at Nicaea. It was at this point that there came in some of the difficulties of translation to which reference has been made. The Greek-speaking Fathers spoke of “three hypostases in one ousia” which Hilary translates “three substances in one essence though he evidently meant what was afterwards better expressed as “three persons in one essence.” Even here, however, we must carefully bear in mind that the term person is not to be understood as meaning all that it implies in human agents —namely, an independent unity.

Accounts of other synods and documents follow. Then comes a summary of the difficulties which have arisen, partly from the profound nature of the ques­tions at issue, and partly from the lamentable igno­rance even of those who ought to have been guides and teachers of the flock.

“ So great is the peril of the Eastern Churches, that it is rare to find either priests or people sound in the faith. Sadly through the fault of some has authority been granted to impiety; and in consequence of the banishment of bishops, whose case is not unknown to you, the strength of the profane ones has been increased.” And here comes in that sad account of the spiritual condition of Asia Minor which has been already quoted in our eighth chapter —that on “Hilary and the Semi-Arians.”

Hilary then proceeds to admit that the objection to the term “of one substance”, on the ground that it may, under certain circumstances, be supposed to suggest Sabellianism, has not been wholly unreasonable. It needs to be set forth in such a context and such a manner as may render its orthodoxy clear and unmistakable.

“Let us urge no solitary phrase from among the divine mysteries in such wise as to cause suspicion on the part of hearers and give occasion to the blasphemer. The one substance may be uttered with piety, may be kept in silence with piety.”

Hilary then proceeds, while criticising the danger of the worst sense being attached to it, to admit- that the Semi-Arian watchword “of like substance ” (homoiousion) may be patient of a good interpretation.

“I entreat you, brethren, remove suspicion, shut out occasions of offence, In order that the homoiousion may be approved, let us not find fault with the homoousion. Let us think of so many bishops, holy men and now at rest; what judgment will the Lord pass upon us if they are now anathematised by us ? .... For we were ordained by them, and we are their successors. Let us renounce the episcopate, because we shall have commenced its duties with an anathema. Make allowance, brethren, for my grief; the task on which you are venturing is an impious one. I cannot endure the suggestion, that any man avowing the homoousion in a religious sense should lie under an anathema. There is nothing criminal in a term which in nowise shocks the religious sense. I neither know nor understand the homoiousion, except as a confession of a like essence. I call to witness the God of heaven and earth, that I, when I had not yet heard either term, yet had always felt the lawfulness of each in such wise that by “ of one substance ” ought to be understood of like substance— that is, that nothing like to itself in nature could possibly exist, unless it were of the same nature. Baptised a considerable time since, and abiding for a short time in the episcopate, I never heard the Nicene Creed, except when on the point of exile; but the Gospels and the Epistles made clear to me the sense of the homoousion and homoiousion. Pious is the wish we cherish. Let us not condemn the Fathers, let us not give courage to the heretics, lest, while we drive heresy away, we nourish heresy. Our Fathers, after the Council of Nicaea, interpreted the fitness of the one substance in a religious spirit; their treatises are extant, full perception of what they meant abides with us ; if anything in the way of addition is needed, let us consult about it in common. A most excellent condition of the faith may yet be built up amongst us, on the basis that nothing that has been well arranged may be disturbed, and all that is wrongly understood may be cut away.

“I have, O brethren beloved, gone beyond the modesty of human intelligence, and, forgetful of my humility, have written on matters so vast and recondite, themes before this age of ours unattempted and kept in silence, under the compulsion of my love for you; and I have told you my own belief, under the conviction that I owe to the Church the service of this my campaign, that by means of this letter I should mark out distinctly the voice of my episcopate in Christ in according with evangelic doctrine. It is your duty so to treat in common, to provide, and so to act, that what you abide in with faith inviolate up to the present day you may preserve with religious conscientiousness, and what you hold now you may hold still. Be mindful in your holy prayers of my exile. Pleasant as would be a return from that exile to you in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is, I feel well-nigh sure, after this my exposition of the faith, a safer issue that I should die. That God and our Lord may preserve you undefiled and uninjured to the day of revelation is, brethren beloved, my desire.”

That this letter, conjoined as it was with consistent treatment of Semi-Arians throughout Hilary’s subsequent career, produced a great effect upon the mind of Christian Gaul, can hardly be doubted. So far as any hesitation arose concerning it, it was from the orthodox, not from the Semi-Arian camp, that it proceeded. There have been critics who have regarded its concessions as somewhat exceeding those which Hilary’s great compeer, Athanasius, would have been inclined to make. But Dom Coutant, the Benedictine editor of the works of Hilary, appears successfully to have disposed of this theory, alleging, fairly enough, we think, that any slight seeming discrepancy of tone may be accounted for by observation of the difference of dates and circumstances. A conference between the defenders of the Nicene Creed in the West and its still more remarkable champion in the East would, in all human probability, have proved that their line of action was virtually as identical as the faith for which they were contending. But, even if both were present, which is doubtful, for a brief time at the Council of Seleucia in 359, the visit of Athanasius to that city was a secret unknown, not merely to all his enemies but even to most of his friends, so that the two allies never met for conference. The period embraced in Hilary’s exile (which lasted, as we have said, for at least the three years commencing with 356) is contemporary with the third expulsion of Athanasius from Alexandria; the expulsion achieved in that same year (356), by the secret orders of the dissembling Constantius, when, at the hour of midnight, Syrianus, duke of Egypt, with five thousand soldiers, attacked, with tumult and bloodshed, the congregation of faithful worshippers gathered together in the church of St. Theodnas. That attack was the prelude to similar outrages in the other churches of Alexandria, which, for four months, remained, in the words of Gibbon, “ exposed to the insults of a licentious army, stimulated by the ecclesiastics of a hostile faction.”

The insults and cruelties inflicted upon holy maidens, as well as upon bishops and presbyters, at the instigation of the Arians, need not here be told in detail. The point with which we are here concerned is, that the main object of the assault, Athanasius himself, escaped into the desert, though not until he had seen the last of the congregation depart. For six years (356-362) the Archbishop of Alexandria, in the inaccessible retreats of the deserts, lived as a monk among monks. But, though constantly changing his place so as to elude pursuit, he continued to send forth his vigorous writings in defence of the faith and against Constantius.

In the romantic series of repeated exiles, in the concentration of all hostility against his individual self—insomuch that “Athanasius against the world” has passed into a proverb—in the imperial, though still humble and self-forgetting, care of all the churches, the place of the Bishop of Poitiers is undoubtedly below that of the great Archbishop of Alexandria. But the work of Athanasius would have remained far less thorough and complete, if, for the many thousands unacquainted with the Greek language, there had been no doctor in the West to teach, in ways of his own and in the Latin, the great lessons which his generation needed to learn. Perhaps the fact that they were never able to meet face to face must be considered to enhance the substantial unity of their creed and work.

Both found it necessary in some degree to break with Lucifer of Cagliari. Athanasius, in a well-known passage of his “De Synodis”, expressed his willingness to regard as brethren those who accepted all that was decreed at Nice, except the term “of one substance.” His most recent English biographer1 is, no doubt, right in insisting that Athanasius did not consider that such a position on the part of the Semi­Arians ought to be, or would be, a permanent one. He was convinced that in time they would perceive the value and importance of the term, and that it would come to be accepted by them, as, in truth, it has come to be accepted by Christendom at large; being, in the words of Gibbon, “unanimously received as a fundamental article of the Christian faith, by the consent of the Greek, the Latin, the Oriental, and the Protestant Churches.”

Hilary, in the work before us, evidently meant to express similar sentiments. But Lucifer of Cagliari thought that he had conceded too much, and had recognised the Semi-Arians as being now in full possession of the truth. In a kindly and courteous explanation sent to Lucifer, the Bishop of Poitiers denied that he had meant or had said so much. “I said not they had proffered the true faith, but a hope of recalling the true faith.”

A few years later, the submission of opponents of the Creed of Nicaea was made upon so large a scale that the question of the terms on which they were to be received was anxiously debated. Reconciliations of this nature are proverbially matters of much delicacy. The discussion on the terms to be granted to those who had lapsed had, in a previous generation, caused long and bitter controversy, and had largely contributed to the schismatic movement known as Novatianism. Happily no such serious rent arose out of the negotiations between the orthodox and the returning Arians or Semi-Arians. Nevertheless, the Bishop of Cagliari, unable to accept the gentle terms offered by the majority, refused to communicate not only with ^those who had been misled at Rimini, but also with all who had received such even when they had manifested their repentance. A few, hence called Luciferians, sided with him. The general feeling branded them as schismatics; and Jerome, though partially excusing the leader, wrote a treatise against his followers. Some who did, not agree with Lucifer yet shrunk from positive condemnation. The Church historian, Sulpicius Severus, who will subse­quently come before us as the biographer of St. Martin, declines to pronounce a judgment on the case. But if he hesitates here (on the whole, we venture 1 to think, mistakenly), on one point he feels no doubt whatever. “This,” writes Sulpicius, “ is admitted on all hands, that our Gaul was freed from the guilt of heresy by the good work of Hilary alone.”





The activity of our prelate’s mind was not sufficiently occupied by the production of Commentaries on Holy Scripture and dogmatic theology, by letters to Constantius, or to his friends in Gaul. In addition to these labours, Hilary, as we have already observed, composed between 360-366 an historic work, in which he intended to give some account of the Councils of Seleucia and Rimini, and to explain how it came to pass that the Council of Rimini, summoned by Constantius, was led to oppose the orthodox Creed of Nicaea.

Of this history we only possess fragments, and, most unfortunately, these fragments are not in a sound condition. At an early period, seemingly while Hilary was yet alive, some interpolations crept into the work; and this circumstance throws a shadow of doubtfulness over the value of the fragments, considered as a whole. Many statements, however, contained in them receive abundant corroboration from independent sources, and, in turn, throw light upon incidents narrated by other authors. Such are, for example, the calumnious charge against the great Athanasius, that he had slain a man named Arsenius, who was subsequently produced alive; the equally calumnious, though less grave, accusation against one of the deacons of Athanasius,—Macharius,—that he had broken a chalice; the mention of a letter from the Egyptian bishops to their brother prelate, Julius, bishop of Rome, and the like. These, with many more details of a like kind, are testified to by Theodoret and also by St. Athanasius himself.

The same must be said concerning a summary of the many brutalities enacted against orthodox prelates, and even holy maidens, by Arians, which forms part of a narrative of the Council of Sardica. That council, summoned by Constantius and Constans, met at some period not earlier than 343, nor later than 347,—the precise date is much dis­puted,—at this town in Illyricum. Its site coincides, or nearly coincides, with that of the modern town of Sophia. There were present about seventy-six Eastern and a hundred Western bishops; and Hosius, of Cordova, who had probably been president at Nice, again occupied the same honourable position. Whether from the stress of business, from its being imprudent to quit Rome, or (as Dean Milman suggests) a dislike to risk the growing dignity of his see by provoking comparison with the Bishop of Cordova, Julius, the bishop of Rome, did not attend. He sent, however, two, or possibly even three, episcopal legates to represent him.

How far Hilary would have shone as an historian, in what degree his narrative would have strengthened his case against the two Arian bishops of Gaul— Valens and Ursacius—for whose confutation he composed it, we have no sufficient means of judging.

In the shape in which it has come down to us, it rather resembles a collection of materials for history, than a history properly so called. Nevertheless, these fragments are far from valueless, and events of the last twenty years have somewhat enhanced the interest felt concerning them.

It is not immediately obvious why our author interwove into his history an event so far back as the Council of Sardica. The mention of a local council, summoned at Arles in 353, is intelligible enough. For not only was this council held in Gaul, but it brought to the front the man who was to prove Hilary’s chief opponent, Saturninus. This prelate, with his Arian allies, succeeded in obtaining from this council a decree of banishment against the devout and ortho­dox Paulinus, bishop of Treves. Hilary shows that the point then at issue was a question of faith, and no mere opinion concerning the conduct of an indi­vidual prelate; in other words, that it turned upon the Creed of Nicaea, not upon the question whether the conduct of Athanasius should be condemned. This is the subject of the first of these historic fragments.

To go back after this commencement upon the Council of Sardica looks like a faulty arrangement, which may, perhaps, have arisen from the ympathizing state in which the book has come down to us. However, it gives Hilary an opportunity of not only defending the course pursued by Athanasius, but of con­firming his defence by the evidence of the two prelates against whom, as we have said, the book is written—Valens and Ursacius. The career of these two bishops, though far less violent than that of Saturninus, had been extremely wavering and inconsistent.

In two letters (one addressed to Julius, bishop of Rome, the other to Athanasius himself) they had ympathizi the innocence of that great champion of truth, and pronounced the various charges against him to be false. But at a council held at Sirmium in 349, and subsequently at Milan, these acquittals were reversed; and the above-named Gallican prelates appear to have been among those who changed sides.

The same difficulty had nearly broken up the Council of Sardica. Athanasius, with his two companions, Marcellus of Ancyra, and Asclepas, claimed the right to sit and vote, but Eusebius of Nicomedia and his partisans would not allow this without a fresh trial. When the Eusebians could not carry their point, they fled, and ympathiz a rival council at the neighbouring city of Philippopolis.

The Council of Sardica has not been deemed of a sufficiently important and representative character to rank among those which are commonly called ecumenical. It is true that one or two great names among Roman Catholic writers may be cited on behalf of its ecumenicity, and that here and there we may find it so called in controversial works written by Ultramontanes. But few, if any, Roman Catholic writers of repute would now venture to claim such a position for it. M. de Broglie disclaims it, and so does even Hefele.

The last-named author not only shows that the weight of authority during the last 300 years is against its ecumenicity, but that conclusive arguments from patristic testimony can be adduced. St. Gregory the Great and St. Isidore of Seville only knew of four general councils—the famous ones of Nice and Constantinople, of Ephesus and Chalcedon. St. Augustine, though he had heard of the Eusebian gathering (which called itself a Council of Sardica, even after its removal to Philippopolis), was entirely ignorant of the fact that an orthodox synod had been held at Sardica. Now, this is inconceivable, if it had been acknowledged as an ecumenical council.

Once again we may seem to be wandering far away from the words and deeds of Hilary of Poitiers. The link of connexion will, however, soon become discernible. The Council of Sardica is one of those assemblages which, though not in the first rank, yet did aid in producing results of importance. It certainly gave an impulse to the growing power of the see of Rome. For its third and fourth canons allow a bishop deposed by his comprovincial bishops, or non-suited in a case of importance, to appeal to the Bishop of Rome, so that he might obtain a re-hearing of his case; not, indeed, directly by the Bishop of Rome, but by judges of neighbouring provinces appointed by that bishop.

Moreover, in the third canon we find the following words introduced:—“If it seem good to you, let us honour the memory of the blessed Apostle Peter, and let letters be addressed to [Julius] the bishop of Rome by those who have been the judges; and let him, if it seem fitting, reopen the case.” The seventh canon runs somewhat similarly. Now, although these canons do not appear in the “Fragmenta” of Hilary, we do find therein a letter from the Sardican bishops to Julius allowing that he had good reason for not being present in person at the synod, and “that it was best and fittest that the bishops from all the provinces should make their reports to the head—that is, the chair of St. Peter.”

Over the canons of Sardica a fierce contest has been waged between the great and learned school of Gallican divines, such as De Marca, Dupin, with several others, and the Roman Ultramontanes, or (as Hefele calls them), Curialists. The Gallicans, while pointing out the limitations of the cases, yet maintain that these canons involved a novelty; and they seem to imply that, as coming from a council not ympathizi as ecumenical, they sanction something like an usurpation. The Curialists not only strain them beyond their natural meaning, but declare that, far from being a novelty, these canons only state formally what was already ympathizi informally, and (as English jurisprudents would phrase it), at the most, convert common law into statute law. Yet even such a change may prove very potent, for it forms a secure basis for further aggression.

Distinguished modern divines, who are far removed from any sympathy with distinctively Roman Catholic doctrine, admit that the providence of God, in this instance, as in so many more, over-ruled to good much that was abstractedly indefensible. They also grant that natural causes, such as the imperial character of the capital of Italy, combined with some of the merits of the early occupants of the see, produced that excessive domination which by the fourteenth century had become too great for any mere mortal, even with the best intentions, to be able to wield it aright. Thus, to take one example out of many, the late Professor Hussey of Oxford, in a succinct and able essay against the Roman Supremacy, when treating of the age of Hilary and Athanasius, writes as follows:—“Rome at that time, and for some time afterwards, had earned the precedence in honour always allowed to the imperial see, not only by her martyred bishops and her munificence to poorer Churches, but also by her orthodoxy, and by the courage and ability with which she undertook the championship of the truth against various shapes of error.”

In attempting to form an opinion respecting the attitude of Hilary’s mind towards the Roman claim, it must be owned that the evidence we have to proceed upon is somewhat scanty and imperfect. It is not even clear that he was acquainted with the actual canons passed at Sardica. The supposition that he was ignorant of their precise contents is certainly not more startling than is the fact that Augustine did not even know of the existence of an orthodox Council of Sardica. But, even if, which is more probable, Hilary was acquainted with them, it must be remembered that the majority of copies contain the word which we have placed in brackets ; that is to say, the name of Julius. The Sardican canons were published both in Latin and Greek; and in the great work of Labbe on the Concilia, the name of the then Bishop of Rome appears both in the Greek copy and in one of the two Latin ones therein given.

It Is no doubt possible—and a learned German Protestant, Spittier, strongly takes this view—that those who inserted the name of Julius may have done so without necessarily meaning to limit the powers therein assigned, so far as a non-ecumenical council could assign them, to the person thus named. Nevertheless, those who have seen even a little of the behind-scenes working of public bodies, alike in causes civil and ecclesiastical, must be aware how frequently the personal element affects the resolutions that nominally spring out of abstract considera­tions. Stated openly, they would constantly run somewhat as follows :—“Let such and such ad­ditional powers be conferred upon the prefect of such a city, for it is an ancient and central one; and then, you know, the present prefect is such an excellent, genial, hospitable man.” “Let such an extension of authority be refused to the bishop of such and such a diocese, because there would be found difficulties in the working out of the scheme; and besides the present holder, A. B., with many good gifts, has incurred, whether justly or not, a prejudice in connexion with this or that event.” True that in each case the first part is usually said aloud and the latter in a whisper; but, for all that, it is often the whispered word that proves the more influential and the one which actually prevails.

Now Julius, who occupied the Roman see for fifteen years (337-352), had proved himself through all these troublous times to be a model prelate. He had maintained the truth of that great central article of the Christian faith, the Incarnation, which forms the chief glory of the human race; and he had loyally supported the action of its foremost champion, Athanasius. Indeed, Rome, which until the time of Leo I. made scarcely any direct contribution to theology, had, under the sway of Julius, not only welcomed the Bishop of Alexandria on the occasion of his second exile from Egypt, but had become (in Dean Milman’s phrase) “the scholar as well as the loyal partisan of Athanasius.” Athanasius impressed upon Latin Christianity the spirit of orthodoxy, and “ introduced into Rome the knowledge and practice of the monastic life.”

Consequently, a claim for an accession of authority to “the bishop of the royal city,” as Socrates calls the Roman prelate, came before the Council of Sardica with a great prestige in its favour. The retirement of the Eusebians to Philippopolis left the orthodox bishops in possession of the field. The Council, sitting within the realms of the orthodox Constans, reaffirmed the decisions of Nice, and com­pelled even Constantius to consent to a restoration of Athanasius.

It would be interesting, if we possessed the entire work of Hilary, to know how he understood the only sentence contained in his extensive writings—and that sentence not his own—which even hints at a primacy residing in the Roman see. Did he regard what had been done as a power conferred simply on his friend Julius ? Did he look at the Council of Sardica as in these matters a purely local one, and as solely conferring (whether on Julius or on his successors) a right of appeal from Illyricum and Macedonia? These provinces, though mainly Greek in race and language, formed part of the empire. That they should seek association with Rome in matters ecclesiastical as well as civil was only natural, more especially as the temporal authority in the East was at this time both heterodox and tyrannical; while at Rome both Church and State were on the side of orthodoxy.

To these questions we have no sufficient means of returning a satisfactory reply. Yet it does seem as if a certain course of action on the part of Hilary and certain portions of these “Fragments” may aid us in arriving at a conclusion which attains, to say the very least, to a high degree of probability.

The course of action has already been referred to, and must come under our notice once again. In his latest years, Hilary resolved to leave the home to which he had returned, and to confront, in his own quarters, the Arianising bishop of Milan, Auxentius. In this tour Hilary enjoyed the company and aid of Eusebius, bishop of Vercelli. It seems to have been injured by the opposition of Lucifer of Cagliari. It was brought to a termination by the stern mandates of the emperor, Constantius. But, as we have already observed, not one single hint can be discovered of the slightest appeal to the authority of the Bishop of Rome.

That bishop was the successor of Julius in the Roman see, Liberius. That the conduct of Liberius may have greatly influenced the feeling of Hilary towards the Roman see, is very possible. But, concerning that conduct, these “Fragments” are one of the sources of evidence. Our general verdict, identical with that of M. de Broglie, has already been given. But at this point we must re-state the case a little more in detail.

The question is whether Liberius, who became bishop of Rome in 352, did or did not, during any part of his career, lend countenance to the Arian heresy.

There are large portions of Christendom, there are large tracts of time in its history, when such a question could only have been regarded as one of very subordinate importance. It is impossible to describe such a condition of feeling more clearly, or to state it more emphatically, than has been done by the greatest doctor of the Western Church, St. Augustine. Writing against Donatist adversaries, he exclaims, I It is a consolation by no means slight, nay, of no mean glory, to be criminally accused, in company with the Church itself, by the enemies of the Church; yet her defence does not depend on the defence of those men whom they [the Donatists] attack with their false charges. Assuredly, whatever may have been Marcellinus, Marcellus, Silvester, Melchiades [bishops of Rome], Mensurius, Caecilianus [bishops of Carthage], no damage accrues to the Catholic Church diffused throughout the universe, in no wise are we crowned by their innocence, in no wise are we condemned by their iniquity.”

Christendom at large would still be prepared to re-echo these trenchant and decided accents, so long as the terms innocence or iniquity referred to moral conduct only. But the work of Augustine in which they occur touches upon questions concerning doctrine even more than on those connected with morality. In the matter now to be discussed—the case of Liberius—the case is essentially doctrinal.

To begin with what is admitted on all sides. The commencement of the episcopate of Liberius was marked by conduct most loyal to the truth and to its defender, Athanasius. Called upon, by a message from Constantius in 356, to condemn Athanasius, Liberius insisted on demanding a fair trial for the Bishop of Alexandria. He further demanded that the accusers should disavow Arianism as a condition of their being allowed to bring charges of misconduct against the accused. Hereupon the emperor caused Liberius to be forcibly brought from Milan, where he was then staying, and undertook the task of converting him by personal intercourse. A report of the con­versation between the emperor and the bishop has come down to us. Those are probably right who hesitate to receive this document as thoroughly trustworthy. But there is no dispute about the main result of the conference. Liberius rose in his demands. He called for a general subscription to the Nicene Creed, for the restoration of all banished bishops, for a fair trial of Athanasius at Alexandria, if trial there must needs be. Three days were then allowed him, during which he was to decide whether he would sign a document condemnatory of Athanasius, or depart into exile to such place as the em­peror should name. Liberius did not hesitate, and was accordingly sent to Beroea in Thrace. His spirited conduct had, however, made an impression upon the mind, not only of Constantius, but also upon that of his Arian consort, the beautiful and accomplished Aurelia Eusebia. They conjointly sent after Liberius a present of a thousand pieces of gold. But he felt that the acceptance of this gift would lay him under some measure of obligation to the court. Consequently he refused it, and in a still more peremptory manner declined aid from an imperial chamberlain, the eunuch Eusebius.

It may also be considered as unquestioned, that Liberius, at the time of his decease in 366, was ympathizi as one who died in full communion with the Church and among the defenders of the Catholic faith.

But what is to be said as regards the intervening time? We have already implied, and it must now again be repeated, that at the close of two years of exile Liberius did in some degree, if the expression may be allowed, lower his flag in token of surrender. Not for one moment do we desire on such a theme to employ a word that can seem to savour of uncharitableness. Those alone who have felt the dreariness of exile, or who have known what it is to suffer imprisonment for conscience sake, have any right to speak upon the subject. That, among the hundred-and-forty-seven bishops banished by Constantius, only two of mark gave way, is a wonderful tribute to the general spirit of noble constancy and endurance. Liberius was sorely tried. He saw one of his own deacons, Felix by name, appointed bishop of Rome. Other bishops who had taken the side of the court, as Demophilus of Beroea, where Liberius was compelled to reside, and a man once thought brave and constant, Fortunatian, the bishop of Aquileia, urged him with subtle arguments. On one of the two points required of the exile, namely the condemnation of Athanasius, they plausibly represented that it did not involve any sacrifice of principle; that, even if innocent of much that was laid to his charge, Athanasius was at best a wrong-headed man, who must be sacrificed, like another Jonah, for the sake of appeasing the storm which he had raised.

Let it be observed in passing, that the possibility of separating between a man and a cause must often be a reality, and that the case of Lucifer of Cagliari is an instance in point in connexion with the times of which we are writing. But, although we have not seen it thus stated, it appears to us that the career of the famous Bishop of Alexandria may, in this respect, be divided into two parts. During the first half of his episcopate, charges of misconduct were alleged against Athanasius with so much profusion and subtlety, that persons living at a distance might well suppose that he was really a turbulent and ill-judging man, nay, perhaps actually a criminal. But, as accusation after accusation proved groundless, the nobler spirits rapidly perceived wherein the real gravamen of the charges against Athanasius consisted. It lay in this, that misbelief and unbelief consisted in believing that the overthrow of the primate of Egypt was an absolute necessity. There were many elements of the struggle, which were greatly modified by the decease of the Arian Constantius and the accession of the Apostate Julian. But this was not one of them. We have already quoted the emphatic words of Gibbon1 respecting that sincere and peculiar hatred with which Julian honoured Athanasius. That this prince did not display equal enmity against Hilary lends countenance to the belief which the bishop of Poitiers entertained; namely, that Saturninus, his chief opponent, had arraigned him, not on the ground of doctrine, but on that of political dis­loyalty, which Julian would probably know to be false, and would willingly disregard. But, among the foremost testimonies to the intimate connexion between the cause of Athanasius and the cause of truth, must ever be ranked the sentiments and con­duct of the gifted Apostate.

It is hardly possible to believe that Liberius was not perfectly ympathizf what would be understood by acquiescence in the condemnation of Athanasius. But this was not the only condition exacted as the price of his return from captivity. As if to show that it was not a merely personal question that was at stake, he was called upon to subscribe a creed other than the Nicene Creed. The air was at that moment rife with creeds. Their degrees of divergence from truth varied, but they were all non-Nicene; they were all trying, if we may so speak, to dethrone that wonderful symbol of belief, and to occupy the vacant place. To sign this or that one might mean more or less ; might involve a profession of utter Arianism, or a subtle shade of difference which was capable of a good interpretation. But to sign any of these documents would be understood alike by friends and foes as in some degree an act of tergiversation.

What did Liberius do ? We answer in the words of St. Jerome’s “Chronicle”: “Liberius, overcome by weariness of his banishment, subscribed to heretical pravity and entered Rome as a conqueror.” The same great doctor, in another work, his “ Catalogue of Illustrious Men,” expresses a natural feeling of in­dignation against the bishop of Aquileia—Fortunatian—who was a leading agent in the perversion of the Bishop of Rome. Jerome’s account of this prelate, literally translated, runs as follows :—“Fortunatian, an African by birth, bishop of Aquileia in the reign of Constantine, wrote commentaries on the Gospels under duly arranged headings fitulis ordinatis) in a brief and homely style. On this ground he is regarded as an object of detestation that he was the first to solicit, and warp, and force into an heretical subscription Liberius, who had gone into exile for the sake of the faith.

We will give one more testimony. It is that of a virtual contemporary,1 the historian Sozomen. Sozomen declares that Constantius compelled Liberius to confess in public before a gathering of deputies from Eastern bishops and other presbyters that the Son is not of one substance with the Father.

Is there on this matter any counter-evidence? Not one syllable. It is possible, indeed, to allege the silence of two historians—Socrates and Theodoret. But this would prove too much. For Theodoret also omits the fall of Hosius of Cordova, about which, unhappily, there is neither doubt nor question. This puts Theodoret out of court, so to speak ; and against the silence of Socrates we have not only the testimonies of St. Jerome, which have just been cited, but also that of an orthodox contemporary; Faustinus, and an Arian one, the historian Philostorgius.

The greatest remains. The writer of our own day who has more than anyone else thoroughly sifted the evidence in this matter—Mr. P. le Page Renouf— events which happened twenty years before his birth. Sir G. C. Lewis, ympathizing with Polybius, is yet inclined to give some extension to the time. He justly observes that many of us have heard much from grandfathers or persons of their generation, but that few of us have had any real acquaintance with our great-grandfathers. I should be inclined, from personal observation, to extend the limit to thirty-five years before birth. But the narrower term would, in this case, seemingly include Sozomen, most justly declares that “Athanasius speaks with the most noble tenderness of the fall both of Liberius and Hosius.” And, indeed, Athanasius asserts a degree of peril as imminent over Liberius, which we do not find in any other history of the period. His words are :—“Liberius, after he had been in banishment two years, gave way, and from fear of threatened death was induced to subscribe”. Elsewhere this great confessor for the faith is found thoroughly to endorse the opinion which we had formed from other testimonies on the meaning at this juncture of a condemnation of Athanasius. For he quotes Constantius as having made the following avowal:—“Be persuaded, and subscribe against Athanasius; for whoever subscribes against him thereby embraces with us the Arian cause.”

Now it is certainly right for all of us who are not Roman Catholics to bear in mind that there is a possible danger of our consciously or unconsciously exaggerating the case against a pope; especially since the Vatican Council has assigned to the Bishop of Rome the extraordinary powers now claimed for him. We have tried in this small volume to bear in mind this danger, and to remind our readers that the fall of Liberius was produced by threats, certainly of lifelong exile, possibly of death, and that there seems no reasonable doubt that he subsequently recovered himself. 

But, if there be a danger on the one side, that danger is greatly intensified on the other. Up to 1500 the fall of Liberius had been unquestioned. But after the Reformation a great difference of tone may be observed in certain quarters. One of the authors known as the Bollandists (the compilers of the still incomplete “Acta Sanctorum,😉, Stilting, attempted to disprove the charges made against Liberius; and since the date of the Vatican Council the attempt has been renewed by several anonymous writers, and by one man of mark—Bishop Hefele.

This was, at any rate, a novelty. The whole of the great Gallican school,—let it suffice to name Tillemont, Fleury, Montfauçon, Ceillier,—with one voice proclaim the truth of the fall of Pope Liberius. Mohler and Dollinger, the two greatest names among German Roman Catholics, are on the same side. M. Renouf (who was a Roman Catholic before the question of papal infallibility was brought up in connexion with the Vatican Council) not only cites the famous Italian controversialist, Cardinal Bellarmine, as equally explicit with the French and German inquirers, but declares that the various mediaeval martyrologies contained distinct reference to the fall of Liberius; nay, more, that it was not until the sixteenth century that they were struck out of the Roman Breviary. Its words are, indeed, most emphatic on the assent rendered by the Bishop of Rome to Arian heresy.

And now to come back to the question of the evidence rendered by the historic fragments of Hilary. Even if, with Dorn Ceillier and with the Benedictine editor of Hilary, Dom Coutant, we forbear to press some of the documents as being questionable, there remains enough to show how strongly Hilary felt upon the subject Yet more; the interjections from his pen tend to prove either that he must have regarded the concessions to the bishop of Rome made by the Council of Sardica as peculiar to Julius, or else that he recorded them as an historic judgment to which larger experience of life forbade his practical assent.

If any assert that Liberius did not fall, they may as well give up all belief in history. To say that his utterances during the period of his lapse, having been brought about by threats, cannot be regarded as the deliberate verdicts of a bishop of Rome, is intel­ligible. But it seems impossible to regard them as the mere private enunciations. It was in order to free himself from exile, possibly to save his life, certainly to regain his see, that Liberius yielded. The defence that he was only writing as a private doctor was unheard of before the present century, and a Roman Catholic dignitary, Cardinal de la Luzerne,1 has distinctly asserted the contrary. His words seem important, and will make a fitting termination to the present chapter —“He gave what was demanded of him on the conditions on which it was demanded. When they demanded his signature at the hand of a pope, as pope, it is the pope, as pope, who gave it.” Of the subscription given by Liberius to another creed than the Nicene, the Cardinal says, “this was only the beginning of his fall; it is not by a single act, but by a succession, that he manifestly declared himself heretical.” We take no pleasure in the fall of any one, least of all of a chief shepherd of Christ’s flock.

But facts are facts, and history is history. We see no escape from the conclusions herein laid down; although, as we have already remarked, it is satisfactory to reflect that Liberius returned to his old allegiance, again contended for the Catholic faith, and died in full communion with its children and champions.





It is proposed in this chapter to touch briefly upon two or three incidental topics on which 'it is impos­sible, within the limits of this work, to dwell with fulness. We refer more especially (1) to the ideas of Hilary as a commentator deducible from the compilation made by the famous schoolman, Aquinas; (2) to some features in one of his latest struggles, that against the Arian bishop of Milan, Auxentius; and (3) to his position in the field of hymnology.

1. St. Thomas Aquinas, amongst his many remarkable contributions to theology, gave us a commentary upon the four Gospels woven with extraordinary skill out of the works of the ancient Fathers. It possesses some of the defects natural to the period of its production. Quotations are occasionally given which later editors, particularly the Benedictines, have since discovered to be spurious. It is also possible that to some modern readers the allegorical interpretations may seem to occupy a disproportionate place among the links of this “Golden Chain.” In the case of the extracts made from Hilary this element is, we incline to think, unduly prominent. Nevertheless, as opinions on such a point may fairly differ, it seems right to make a slight addition to the cursory notice given in a former chapter, and to cite a few specimens of Hilary as an allegorist, if such a term may be permitted. It must be premised that in this department of inter­pretation Hilary is certainly, on the whole, inferior to some other Fathers in felicity, more especially to Origen. We, of course, select one or two of our author’s most successful efforts.

The following is Hilary’s comment on our Lord’s discourse concerning the work and office of the holy Baptist, recorded in the eleventh chapter of St. Matthew :—

“ In these things which were done concerning John there is a deep store of mystic meaning. The very condition and circumstances of a prophet are them­selves a prophecy. John signifies the Law : for the Law proclaimed Christ, preaching remission of sins, and giving promise of the kingdom of heaven. Also when the Law was on the point of expiring (having been through the sins of the people, which hindered them from understanding what it spake of Christ, as it were, shut up in bonds and in prison), it sends men to the contemplation of the Gospel that unbelief might see the truth of its words established by deeds.”

Here is a similar application of the parable con­cerning the grain of mustard-seed (St. Matt, xiii., 31-32)

“This grain, then, when sown in the field,—that is, when seized by the people and delivered to death, and, as it were, buried in the ground by a sowing of the body,—grew up beyond the size of all herbs, and exceeded all the glory of the Prophets. For the preaching of the Prophets was allowed, as if it were herbs, to a sick man; but now the birds of the air lodge in the branches of the tree; by which we understand the Apostles, who put forth of Christ’s might, and overshadowing the world with their boughs, are a tree to which the Gentiles flee in hope of life, and having been long tossed by the winds (that is, by the spirits of the devil), may have rest in its branches.” Hilary occasionally dwells, in common with many of the Fathers, upon the supposed suggestiveness of the numbers mentioned in connexion with some incident. Thus, for example, as regards the miraculous feeding first of the five thousand and then of the four thousand, he observes :—

“As that first multitude which He fed answers to the people among the Jews that believed, so this is compared to the people of the Gentiles, the number of four quarternions denoting an innumerable number of people out of the four quarters of the earth.”

It cannot, we think, be affirmed that any marked success has attended investigations of this sort respecting the mystic meaning of numbers. The subject possesses a great charm, however, for certain minds. Such a belief formed a leading element in one of the most high-toned systems of ancient philosophy,—that of the Pythagoreans. Plato has also shown a dispo­sition to encourage it, though his references to the subject are far from being clear and intelligible. In modern physical science the discoveries of Dalton in chemistry are connected with numbers to a degree that is almost marvellous. If there be mysteries entwined with numbers in nature, it is also possible that the same law may hold good with reference to revelation. But when it has been remarked that certain numbers,—as, for example, seven and forty, recur very frequently in the pages of Holy Writ; that some mystery may underlie such a fact; and that such belief is commonly manifested in patriotic theo­logy, and has had a certain measure of influence upon Christian art, we have probably said all that can be safely advanced at present. No consistent theory upon this matter has yet been proved.

And here we leave this part of Hilary’s exposition, merely adding that though Aquinas may have givenit undue prominence, he has not wholly excluded specimens of our author’s m ore usual comments. We give one merely by way of example. Hilary is expounding the confession of St. Peter (St. Matt, xvi. 16):—

“ This is the true and unalterable faith, that from God came forth God the Son, who has eternity out of the eternity of the Father. That this God took unto Him a body, and was made man, is a perfect confession. Thus he embraced all, in that He here expresses both His nature and His name, in which is the sum of virtues. This confession of Peter met a worthy reward, for that he had seen the Son of God in the man.”

2. There is an obvious reason for not dwelling much on the details of Hilary’s contest with Auxentius. We fear that our readers may be rather wearied with continuous accounts of the struggles against Arianism; although it is well that they should bear in mind on this theme the admonition of a writer not generally disposed to over-value the work of the champions of orthodoxy. “That wonderful metaphysic subtlety,” wrote Charles Kingsley, “which, in phrases and definitions too often unmeaning to our grosser intel­lect, saw the symbols of the most important spiritual realities, and felt that on the distinction between homoousios and homoiousios might hang the solution of the whole problem of humanity, was set to battle in Alexandria, the ancient stronghold of Greek philo­sophy, with the effete remains of the very scientific thought to which it owed its extraordinary culture. Monastic isolation from family and national duties especially fitted the fathers of that period for the task, by giving them leisure, if nothing else, to face questions with a life-long earnestness impossible to the mere social and practical northern mind. Our duty is, instead of sneering at them as pedantic dreamers, to thank Heaven that men were found, just at the time when they were wanted, to do for us what we could never have done for ourselves ; to leave us as a precious heirloom, bought most truly with the life-blood of their race, a metaphysic at once Christian and scientific, every attempt to improve on which has hitherto been found a failure; and to battle victoriously with that strange brood of theoretic monsters begotten by effete Greek philosophy upon Egyptian symbolism, Chaldee astro­ogy, Parsee dualism, Brahminic spiritualism.” It is true that Kingsley is chiefly thinking of the East; but Hilary was, as we have seen, the representative champion of the same contest in the West.

It is right to observe, before we proceed, that Auxentius is one of the few persons against whom the bishop of Milan employs severity of language. Now, to record all Hilary’s expressions would almost inevitably convey a very false impression to the mind of any ordinary reader. For the amount of objurga­tion contained in Hilary’s writings, taken as a whole, is not very large, and to set down everything of the kind in this small work would give a most unjust impression of the proportionate space which it occupies in his writings. Three persons only seem to be special objects of his indignation,—Saturninus, Constantius, and Auxentius. But, in all these cases, it was not heresy or the patronage of heresy which alone moved the wrath of Hilary; it was the combination, in his judgment, of utter dishonesty with misbelief.

Towards the close of 364, the altercation between the two prelates attracted the observation of Valentinian, who had become emperor soon after the commencement of that year. Both from such evidence as remains to us, and from the generally charitable estimate of opponents formed by Hilary, there seems good ground for believing that his judg­ment of Auxentius was just. But, inasmuch as, though seeming Arian in his heart, Auxentius made a profession of orthodoxy, we can hardly wonder that Valentinian acted as most rulers and statesmen would have been inclined to act under similar circumstances, and declined to examine the accusations made by Hilary. Indeed, the emperor openly entered into com­munion with Auxentius, and ordered Hilary to leave Milan. Hilary obeyed the imperial mandate without delay, but once more betook himself to his pen. Into the arguments whereby he seeks to prove the covert Arianism of his fellow bishop, we do not propose to enter; but two points outside the personal controversy deserve attention.

One of these points has already come before us in the discussion contained in an earlier chapter, namely, chapter ix., concerning Hilary and the em­peror. Of the two courses which had been alternately followed by Constantius, persecution and the allurement of flattery, Valentinian, in Hilary’s judgment, seemed inclined to adopt the gentle one. But this was a special object of dread to Hilary; indeed, so much so as to render him perhaps rather one-sided in his sentiments and language concerning it. Like many other excellent men, he had a keen sense of the actual danger then impending, and was consequently rather inclined to underrate the terrible trials which had existed for ordinary Christians during the previous ages of persecution.

The second point is one of those which lend some countenance to the much-mooted proposition, “History repeats itself.” Hilary saw reason to fear that the defenders of the Catholic faith in Milan might be tempted to enter into some compromise with its opponents, for the sake of keeping possession of some cherished and valued places of worship. On this topic Hilary is most emphatic. “Specious indeed is the name of peace and fair the very thought of unity; but who can doubt that that unity of the church and of the gospels alone is peace which pre­serves the unity of Christ,—that peace of which He spoke to the Apostles after His glorious Passion, which on the eve of departure He commended to us for a pledge of His eternal mandate,—that peace, brethren most beloved, which we have endeavoured to seek when it has been lost, to smooth when it has been disturbed, to hold fast when it has been found? But to become partakers or creators of this kind of peace has been denied to us by the sins of our age, has been disallowed by the forerunners and ministers of an impending antichrist, men who exult in a peace of their own, that is to say in a unity of impiety, who conduct themselves not as bishops of Christ, but as priests of antichrist.”

Hilary gives a short explanation of the way in which there may be many antichrists, as St. John has taught us in his first Epistle (ii. 18). He proceeds to lament the tendency to court the patronage of emperors and officers of state, which is in fashion.

“And first allow me to pity the toil of our age, and to bewail the foolish opinions of the present day, in which men believe that human powers can patronise God, and endeavour to defend the church of Christ by a worldly ambition. Fain would I ask you, O ye bishops, who believe that such a course is possible, what sort of aids did the Apostles employ in furtherance of their preaching of the gospel ? by what powers were they helped when they preached Christ, and turned well-nigh all nations from idols to God? Did they seek to win any honour from the palace when they were singing a hymn in prison in chains after their scourging? Was it by the edict of a king that Paul laboured to gather together a church for Christ, at the time when he was a spectacle in the theatre for men to gaze upon ? Was he, do you suppose, defended by the patronage of a Nero, a Vespasian, or a Decius, men who by their hatred against us made the confession of the divine messages to bud forth? The apostles, who supported them­selves by the labours of their own hands, who met together in upper chambers and in secret places, who traversed towns and fortresses and well-nigh all nations by land and sea in the teeth of decrees of the senate and mandates of kings—did they, forsooth, not hold

the keys of the kingdom of heaven ? Rather, did not the power of God then manifestly exhibit itself against human hatred, when Christ was all the more preached in proportion as that preaching was for­bidden?”1

Hilary proceeds to analyse the many evasions, of which Auxentius was guilty both as regards doctrine and fact; as, for example, his denial that he knew Arius, when in truth he had commenced his career as a presbyter in Alexandria at an Arian Church, presided over by one Gregory. The desire of the Emperor Valentinian not to stir up awkward inquiries, and to assume the sincerity of all who professed to be orthodox, seemed but too likely in time to infect the flocks. It might happen that if they opposed the Emperor’s views (not, as we have remarked, unnatural views for a statesman to adopt) they might incur the danger to which we have referred, and lose possession of the churches. Hilary, as we have remarked, is most anxious to forewarn them on the peril of such an anxiety. He shrinks from committing to paper all the disgraceful blasphemies of the Arians.

“But one warning I give you : be on your guard against antichrist. A dangerous affection for walls has seized upon you ; in a mistaken way you venerate the Church of God as if it must be seated under roofs and in buildings, and you connect with such things the idea of peace. But is there a doubt but that antichrist will take his seat in these ? To my thinking, the mountains and the woods and lakes, the very prisons and chasms, are safer; for in such places men of old, either abiding by choice or detained by force, used to prophecy by the Spirit of God. Keep away then from Auxentius, the Angel of Satan, the enemy of Christ, the abandoned devastator, the denier of the faith; who has made to the Emperor a profession framed in order to mislead; who has deceived in such wise as to blaspheme. Let him now collect against me what synods he chooses; and publicly proscribe me as a heretic, as he has often done; let him stir up against me at his liking the wrath of the powerful. To me assuredly he will always be a Satan, because he is an Arian. Nor shall peace ever be desired save the peace of those who, according to the creed of our fathers at Nicaea, anathematize Arians and preach Christ as true God.”

3. For convenience sake and from a desire that this chapter may not close with accents of fiery controversy, we have disregarded chronological exactness. For the struggle with Auxentius took place after Hilary’s return from banishment, whereas the hymn to which we now invite attention was composed during its author’s exile, and was enclosed in a letter to his daughter Abra. It cannot indeed be pretended that the one specimen of this kind of composition, of which the genuineness seems the best established, is such as to place the Bishop of Poitiers on a level with St. Ambrose, far less with some of the mediaeval writers of hymns. Still it is singular that the earliest Latin hymn, to which we are able to assign a name as that of its. author, should be the work of that Father of the Church who gave us the earliest treatise upon the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the first commentary upon a Gospel. As will be seen from the following attempt to render it, it is addressed to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, and is rightly called a Morning Hymn:—

Radiant Giver of the light,

By whose calm and piercing ray,

When have flown the hours of night,

Comes the re-awakening day ;

True enlightener of the earth,

Not like feeble morning-star,

Herald of the sun-light’s birth,

Dimly brooding from afar,

But brighter than the noon-tide blaze,

Fount and source of all our day,

Potent in men’s heart to raise

Sparks that ne’er shall fade away.

Framer of the realms of space,

Glory of Thy Father’s light,

Teach, by treasures of Thy grace,

Hearts to scan themselves aright.

Still the Spirit’s aid impart,

Make us shrines of the Most High,

Lest the arch-rebel traitor’s art

Lure s uby its witchery.

Earthly needs of life entail

Daily cares without, within ;

Make Thy precepts still prevail,

Guide us through them free from sin.

Lawless passion’s force repress,

Purity of heart bestow ;

E’en our mortal bodies bless

Th’ Holy Spirit’s shrines to grow.

Thus the prayerful soul aspires,

Such its votive-gifts to Thee,

Trusting that thy mom-lit fires

Serve for nightly custody.





The decision of Constantius, which had sent Hilary back to Gaul, though still keeping the sentence of banishment hanging over him, allowed him some freedom in his mode of return. It was dilatory, for he stayed at various places on the road, and his happiness at the prospect of regaining home was much alloyed by the scenes which he witnessed. The emperor had banished from their sees all the bishops who refused to accept the ambiguous form of words set forth by the Council of Rimini, and many flocks were mourning the absence of their chief pastors. The year 361 was spent in this way; but in the following year Hilary regained his home, and rejoined his wife and daughter. He was warmly welcomed by the inhabitants of his native town and by the diocese at large, and his friend and disciple, Martin of Tours, was among those who hastened to visit him.

Abra had received addresses during his absence; and he, on hearing it, had sent her a letter of a rather mystic though exceedingly affectionate character. Its tendency was to set forth the supe­riority of celibacy. But he wished the decision to be really her own, though if she found any difficulty in understanding his letter, or two hymns which he enclosed, she was to consult her mother. He found her unwedded on his return, and she may probably have remained so.

The more ardent among Hilary’s friends and supporters desired, as has been observed already, to refuse communion to all who had been betrayed into the acceptance of the decrees of Rimini. But such a course did not commend itself to their leader. Hilary preferred the plan of gathering together, in different parts of Gaul, assemblies of bishops, and entering into mutual explanations. The line proposed by him proved most successful, and the counter-efforts of his old opponent, Saturninus, were utterly fruitless. The Bishop of Arles found himself thoroughly deserted, and was in a short time practically excluded from communion with the Gallican episcopate.

The attempt to carry out still further this line of conduct by a journey into Northern Italy and Illyria was not, as we have implied, equally successful. Though Eusebius of Vercelli lent Hilary powerful aid, the efforts of these two friends seem to have been threatened by the conduct of the well-intentioned, but uncompromising, Lucifer of Cagliari. Nevertheless, Hilary remained in Italy from the latter part of 362 until the late autumn of 364, when, as has already been mentioned, he was ordered home by the Emperor Valentinian. Ten years later, had he lived so long, Hilary would have had the satisfaction of seeing Ambrose become bishop of Milan.

The last three or four years of his life were spent at Poitiers, and seemed to have been comparatively quiet and untroubled. He died in peace on January 13th, 368.

There was so much of paganism remaining in Gaul at the date of Hilary’s conversion, that he might have, humanly speaking, enjoyed a brilliant career as a member of the gifted, and, for those times, polished society of the aristocracy of his native land. In that case, he would not have known exile; and, though he might have disliked many of the anti-pagan measures of Constantius, he probably would not have protested against them any more than did the heathen orators of the day, such as Themistius or Libanius, who continued to lavish flatteries upon the emperor, though in their hearts believing him to be an enemy of the gods. But there was that in Hilary which, by the grace of God, rendered such a career impossible; and his country, and Christendom at large, more especially in the West, were to be the gainers. Even in Britain a few churches have been dedicated to his memory. The great popularity of the name Hilaire in France is a tribute to the impression which he made upon the public mind. This impression may have been deepened by the good gifts of his name­sake, St. Hilary of Arles, in the succeeding century.

But we can hardly look back upon Hilary’s troubled and chequered career, noble as it was, without feeling that it offers one of the numerous illustrations of the fact, that in whatever age of the Church our lot might have been cast we should have found difficulties at least as great as those of our own time. In the eighteenth century its spiritual deadness might have paralysed us. In the sixteenth we should have had to undergo the fierce trial of deciding, not merely between Medievalism and the Reformation, but between, it may be, the different schools and theories of reform. In the fifteenth, we might have shared its torpor, or have become intoxicated with the pagan spirit of the movement known as the Renaissance. In the early part of the thirteenth century, a wave of unbelief, exceedingly mysterious in its origin, and as subtle as anything to which we are now exposed, might have swept us away in its vortex. And, during the first three cen­turies, there might have been presented to us the choice between apostasy and a death of torture, demanding heroic virtue to support it.

And how, as regards that age, the middle of the fourth century, in which was placed, by God’s providence, the life of Hilary of Poitiers? He has himself described it.

“It is a thing equally deplorable and dangerous that there are as many creeds as opinions among men, as many doctrines as inclinations, and as many sources of blasphemy as there are faults among us, because we make creeds arbitrarily and explain them arbitrarily. The Homousion is rejected, and received, and explained away by successive synods. The partial or total resemblance of the Father and of the Son is a subject of dispute for these unhappy times. Every year, nay, every moon, we make new creeds to describe invisible mysteries. We repent of what we have done, we defend those who repent, we anathematise those whom we defended, We condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our own in that of others; and, reciprocally tearing one another to pieces, we have been the cause of each other’s ruin.”

That, unlike these varying creeds, the Nicene Creed has endured, is, as we have already remarked, a wonderful tribute to the divine blessing on the work of the famous council which drew it up.

That Hilary was permitted to take an honourable, and, on the whole, a wonderfully successful part in bringing Christendom out of this state of chaos, and that his character and conduct were not unworthy of his lofty aims and devout writings, form his title to our reverence and regard,—

We live by admiration, hope, and love,

And even as these are well and wisely fix’d

In dignity of being we ascend.

One alone, indeed, of our race can satisfy all the demands of the human heart, and intellect, and conscience. But His servants stand around Him, and lead onward to Him. To throw our lot with them is to hope for acceptance at His hands :—

Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ,

Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.

We therefore pray Thee help Thy servants, whom

Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.

Make them to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting.