Letter of Alexander of Alexandria, to Alexander of Constantinople
[The paragraph numbers were added to aid in reading as a Bible Study]
"Alexander sendeth greeting in the Lord to Alexander, the honored and beloved brother. "Impelled by avarice and ambition, some evilminded individuals have formed designs to obtain the highest ecclesiastical preferments. Under various pretexts, they trample upon the religion of the church; and, being instigated by Satanic agency, they abandon all circumspection, and throw off the fear of God's judgments. Having been made to suffer by them in my own diocese, I write to arouse your caution, that you may be on your guard against them, lest they, or any of their party, should presume to enter your diocese.
They are skilful in deception, and circulate false and specious letters, calculated to delude the simple and unwary. "Arius and Achillas have lately formed a conspiracy, and have acted even more culpably than Coluthus, whom they rivalled in ambition. He reprehended their conduct, for he certainly had some pretext to plead in extenuation of his own guilt.
When they perceived the gain resulting from his sale of ordinances, they felt unable to remain in subjection to the church; they accordingly constructed caverns, like those of robbers, in which they constantly assemble; and, day and night, they there invent calumnies against the Saviour, and against us.
They revile the religious doctrines of the apostles; and, having, like the Jews, conspired against Christ, they deny his divinity, and declare him to be on a level with other men. They collect all those passages which allude to the incarnation of our Saviour, and to his having humbled himself for our salvation, and bring them forward as corroborative of their own impious assertion; while they evade all those which declare his divinity, and the glory which he possesses with the Father.
They maintain the ungodly hypothesis entertained by the Greeks and the Jews, concerning Jesus Christ; and, at the same time, endeavor, by every art, to ingratiate themselves with those people. "All those suppositions connected with our religion, which have been advanced to excite derision, they represent as true.
They daily excite persecutions and seditions against us. They bring accusations against us before judicial tribunals, suborning as witnesses certain unprincipled women, whom they have seduced into error. They dishonor Christianity by permitting young women to ramble about the streets. "They have had the audacity to rend the seamless garment of Christ, which the people dared not divide.
When their wicked course of life, which had been carefully concealed, became gradually known to us, we unanimously rejected them from the church which recognizes the divinity of Christ. "They then ran hither and thither to form cabals against us, and endeavored, by means of fair words, to delude some among them into their own error.
They are careful not to admit before them that they teach unholy doctrines and perpetrate infamous actions amongst us, and that they are for this cause excluded from communion with us. "They conceal their pernicious doctrines by means of their plausible and persuasive mode of conversation; they thus deceive the unwary, while they never omit calumniating our religion on all occasions. Hence it arises that several have been led to sign their letters, and to receive them into communion.
I consider that the conduct of our fellow ministers, in acting so rashly, is highly reprehensible; for they thus disobey the apostolic canons, and co-operate in the work of the devil against Christ. It is on this account that I make you acquainted, without delay, beloved brethren, with the unbelief of certain persons who say that there was a time when the Son of God had no existence; and that, not having existed from eternity, he must have had a beginning; and that when he was created, he was made like all other men that have ever been born.
God, they say, created all things, and they include the Son of God in the number of creatures, both rational and irrational. To argue consistently, they, as a necessary consequence, affirm that he is by nature liable to change, and capable of both virtue and vice. Their hypothesis of his having been created, contradicts the testimony of the divine scriptures, which declare the immutability, the divinity, and the wisdom of the Word, which Word is Christ.
'We are also able,' say these evil-minded individuals, 'to become, like him, the sons of God, 'for it is written, 'I have nourished and brought up children.' (Is. 1: 2.) When the continuation of this text is brought before them, which is, 'and they have rebelled against me,' and it is objected that these words cannot refer to Christ, whose nature is immutable, they throw aside all reverence, and affirm that God foreknew and foresaw that his Son would not rebel against him, and that he therefore chose him in preference to all others.
They likewise assert that he was not elected because he had by nature any qualifications superior to those of the other sons of God; for God, say they, has not any son by nature, nor, indeed, had he any connection whatever with him; they consider that he was elected because, though mutable by nature, he was vigilant and zealous in avoiding evil. They add that if Paul and Peter had made similar efforts, their filiation would in no respects have differed from his.
"To establish this absurd doctrine they pervert the Scriptures, and bring forward that expression in the Psalms, wherein is said of Christ, 'Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.' (Psalm xiv. 7.) That the Son of God was not created, and that there never was a time in which he did not exist, is expressly taught by John the Evangelist, who spoke of him as 'The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father.' (John i. 18.) But he elsewhere affirms, that the Word of God is not to be classed among created beings; for he says, that 'all things were made by him,' and he also declares his individual existence in the following words: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.' If, then, all things were made by him, how is it that He who bestowed existence on all, could at any period have had no existence himself?
The Word who created cannot be of the same nature as the things created. For He was in the beginning, and all things were made by him, and were called by him out of nothing into being: he who is said to have existed before all things, must differ entirely from those things which were called out of nothing into being. This shows, likewise, that there is no separation between the Father and the Son, and that the idea of separation cannot even be conceived by the mind. The fact that the world was created out of nothing, shows that its creation is comparatively recent; for by the Father through the Son did all things which it contains receive their being.
John, the pious apostle, perceiving the greatness of the Word of God above all created beings, could find no terms adequate to convey this truth, neither did he presume to apply the same epithet to the Maker as to the creature. The Son of God is not unbegotten, for the Father alone is unbegotten, but the manner in which the Son was begotten of God is inexplicable, and beyond the comprehension of the evangelist, and perhaps of angels.
Therefore, I think that those should not be considered pious who presume to investigate this subject in disobedience to the /injunction, 'Seek not what is too difficult for thee, neither inquire into what is too high for thee.' (Eccltis. iii. 21.) The knowledge of many things, incomparably inferior is beyond the capacity of the human mind, and cannot therefore be attained. "It has been said by Paul, 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.' (1 Cor. ii. 9.)
God also said to Abraham, that the stars could not be numbered by him'; and it is likewise said, 'Who shall number the grains of sand by the sea-shore, or the, drops of rain?' (Ecclus. i. 2.) How then can any one, unless indeed his intellect be deranged, presume to inquire into the nature of the Word of God? It is said by the spirit of prophecy, 'Who shall declare his generation?' (Isa. liii. 8.) And, therefore, our Saviour said : 'No man knoweth the Son but the Father, and no man knoweth the Father save the Son.' (Matt. xi. 27.)
It was, I think, concerning this same subject that the Father said, 'My secret is for me and for mine.' Paul has thus written concerning Christ, 'Whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also ho made the worlds.' (Heb. i. 2.) 'For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things were created by him and for him, and he is before all things.' (Col. i. 16,17.)
The Father is the Father because he has a Son, hence it is that he is called a Father. Ho did not beget his Son in time. Is k not impiety to say that the wisdom of God was at one period not in existence? for it is written, 'I was with Him, being joined to Him, I was his delight.' (Prov. viii.) The Sonship of our Saviour has nothing in common with the sonship of men. Wisdom is not susceptible of folly. "Docs not the apostle remark on this subject, 'What communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial?' (2 Cor. vi. 14, 15), and Solomon said that he could not comprehend 'the way of a serpent upon a rock' (Prov. xxx. 19), which, according to St. Paul, is Christ. And it is, on this account, that our Lord, being, by nature, the Son of the Father, is worshipped by all.
Paul says God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us, who are not by nature his sons. (Rom. viii. 32.) It is also written, 'This is my beloved Son' (Matt. iii. 17); and in the Psalms, it is written that the Saviour said, 'The Lord said unto me, Thou art my Son.' (Ps. ii. 7.) But what can these words signify, 'I conceived thee in my bosom before the star of morn,' unless they are meant to show that ho was born according to the course of nature of the Father? But there are others not his children by nature, as it is written in the word, 'The sons of God saw the daughters of men, and took them as wives.' (Gen. vi. 2.) And God, speaking by Isaiah, said, ' I have begotten and brought up children, and they rebelled against me.' (Isa. i. 2.)
"Three bishops in Syria [Eusebius, of Cresarea; Theodotus, of Laodicea; and Paulinus, of Tyre], ordained, no one knows how, side with them, and incite them to plunge deeper and deeper into iniquity. "They reject those passages of Scripture which declare in our Saviour's glory and union with the Father. Such as: 'My Father and I are one.' 'Lord, show us the Father.' In reply to which he said, 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.' And in the Psalms, 'In thy light we shall see light.' (Ps. xxxv.)
"They say that they alone are wise and destitute of property. Oh, what wicked arrogance! Even devils are not guilty of impiety like this. These ignorant persons contend that one of the two things must necessarily be true; either that Christ was created, or that there are two unbegotten beings. "We believe, as is taught by the apostolical church, in the only unbegotten Father, who is the author of his own existence.
The mind of man could not possibly invent a term expressive of what is meant by being unbegotten. To say that the Son was, that he has always been, and that he existed before all ages, is not to say that he is unbegotten. We believe that he is the only begotten Son of God, as was taught by the holy men who vainly endeavored to clear up the mystery, but failed, and confessed that it was beyond their powers.
"Besides this pious opinion of the Father and the Son, we confess the existence of the Holy Ghost, which truth has been upheld by the saints of the Old Testament, and by the learned divines of the New. "We believe in one catholic and apostolical church, which cannot be destroyed, and which never fails to defeat all the impious designs of heretics.
Besides this we receive the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead, of which Jesus Christ, our Lord, became the first fruits. He possessed a true, not a suppositious body, and he derived it from Mary, the, mother of God. "I have sent you these signatures by my son Apion, the deacon: they are the signatures of the ministers in all Egypt and in Thebes; also of those in Libya, Pentapolis, Syria, Lycia, Pamphylia, Asia, Cappadocia, and in the other adjoining countries.
You likewise must follow this example. Many attempts have been made by me to gain back those who have been led astray, and discover the means of restoring the people who have been deceived by them; and I have found none more persuasive in leading them to repentance, than the manifestation of the union of our fellow ministers.
The following are the names of those who have been excommunicated:—"Among the presbyters, Arius; among the deacons, Achillas, Euzoius, Aithalis, Lucius, Sarmatis, JuliusMenas, another Arius, and Helladius." Alexander wrote in the same strain to Philogonius, bishop of Antioch; to Eustathius, who then ruled the Church of the Bereans, and to others. But Arius could not quietly acquiesce in this. He, therefore, wrote to all those who he thought were of his sentiments. The following is his letter to Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia.