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the times, there was Soma, the body ; Psuke, the breath of life, or the spirit; and Nous, the intelligent reason. In this philosophy of man, the Soma and the Psuke belong to the human body; while the Nous is that which was wanting in the semblance of humanity which belonged to Christ, its place being supplied by the divine intelligence, God himself. Thus, according to Sabellius, the humanity of Christ was not a complete humanity, it was only a transitory shape, or appearance, in which God made a revelation of himself. So far, Sabellius was only a Monarchian. In advance of the second class of Monarchians that preceded him, he declared that the Holy Spirit was only another form of manifestation of the same one God, or Monarch. Thus the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was all in which Sabellius made any deviation from the strict Monarchianism that preceded him. In short he declared that "the Father remains the same, but evolves himself in the Son, and in the Spirit.” Sabellius completed his scheme of a trinity by putting the Spirit in the same relation to God as that of Christ to God, which was already received. It was a trinity in which the same one God appeared, only in the discharge of different offices, or modes of operation. He was the same God in person, who acted now as God the Father, now as God in Christ, and now as God the Spirit. This trinity was simply the self-evolution of the one Monarch into these several offices or modes of operation.
We have spoken of Sabellius as adding to the Monarchian speculation the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It is plain that he was led to this under pressure of the doctrine of the Spirit advanced by the Montanists, who were in those times something like our Spiritualists. They held that Christ was only a man, but that he was a good medium, as we should say; and that as a good medium of the Spirit, he accomplished many wonderful works. In opposition to the Montanists, Sabellius would show that Christ was more than a mere man, that he was verily God; and in like manner, he would raise the Holy Spirit from the vulgar idea of the Montanists to that of the Holy Spirit being one manifestation of God. So far, it is evident that the intention of Sabellius in his scheme of a trinity was to honor God, and to do this especially by maintaining his unity.
Let us consider now the practical consequences of this theory of Sabellius, for this is necessary in the most cursory statement of his doctrine. The personality of Christ is not regarded as possessed of any eternal substance, but is only a transitory appearance. The quasi humanity of Christ at length dissolves, and becomes as though it had never been. Whatever there was of the personal existence of Christ is at length annihilated. But in the light of Scripture it may be asked, if the body and whatever there was of the personality of Christ be annihilated, how then is he to become the first fruits of them that slept, by rising in his own body, and by assuming forever his own special personality? If the personality of Christ is transient, is only an appearance that vanishes away, then must not the personality of those who believe on him, and are spoken of as becoming like him, must not their personality also vanish away? Since the Christian faith in a personal, eternal life stands on the faith of the eternal duration of the personality of Christ, we might conclude that as Sabellius made Christ's personality to be nothing more than a transitory appearance, so he must have conceived it to be in regard to all personal existence, aside from God. But if all personal existence is only ephemeral, and transitory in this manner, why then everything at last comes to Pantheism. It is easy to see that the rejection of the eternal personality of Christ must end in Pantheism, in order to be logically consistent. This was the strong objection raised against Sabellius at the time he advanced his doctrine of a trinity. It was the same objection which threw the doctrine into discredit as advocated by Apollinaris of Laodicea about a century later. Apollinaris was a Monarchian. His great effort in the Arian controversy was to suppress the doctrine of a perfect human nature in Christ. By his perfect knowledge of the ancient Greek literature, and by his philosophical turn of mind, it is said that he supposed he could establish his argument with mathematical precision. Accepting the views of Beryllus of Bostra, and of Sabellius as already stated, the force of the argument of Apollinaris was spent in attempting to show that in the humanity of Christ there was no human soul; that his humanity, or human body, was only a human body inspired, or inhabited by the reason of God himself. It is true that Apollinaris was willing to ascribe a soul to the Redeemer, and some, by a superficial understanding of him, have supposed that he did really allow in this respect a perfect human nature in Christ; and, in the same way many have supposed that Sabellius allowed that Christ had a human soul. What Apollinaris called a human soul, however, was only the Psuke, or vital breath of the body, the animal, according to the threefold analysis of man into the Soma, Psuke, and Nous. That which constituted the higher dignity of man, the Nous, or Psuke Logike of Christ, as it was sometimes phrased, could not be of human origin, but must be purely divine. Hence the oft repeated assertion that in Christ, the “Divine reason supplied the place of the human reason.” Hence the expressions came into use in reference to Chriet's death and birth, that “God died,” « God was born.”
Sabellianism, under the lead of Apollinaris, was met by one of the best minds of that, or perhaps of any age, in the person of Athanasius. He brought up the old objections, showing the inconsistency of the doctrine in relation to other doctrines of Christianity, while he pointed out clearly the Pantheism to which it must inevitably tend.
If the personality of Christ were nothing more than a transitory appearance, the same, and upon the same arguments, might be conceived in reference to all personal existence. If Christ were only an emanation of God, like a ray from the sun, to be at length taken back and reabsorbed in the sun, a ray from God, to be reabsorbed in God; then, just so might all things be reabsorbed. But this is Pantheism, ending logically in the denial of all personality, the modern statement of which is most fully made in the Positive Philosophy of Comte.
Again, if the body of Christ was not strictly human, if it was only human but in appearance and but a mere body, what became of it? How then could Christ become the first fruits of the resurrection? What hope could there be for the Christian, that, according to the Scriptures, he should follow Christ with his body in the resurrection, and to become like Christ in the risen, the spiritual and glorified body?
Yet again, it behooved Christ to be our example in every respect; but this would be impossible if his nature were not like ours, if indeed he had no human soul.
By these arguments Athanasius refuted Sabellianism by showing that logically it must end in Pantheism ; and that it was opposed to the manifest teachings of the Scriptures. It appears that one reason for the reluctance of the Sabellians to acknowledge that Christ had a human soul consisted in their false view of sin. Adopting more or less the Manichæan notion that sin was necessary in human nature; that sin was the real nature of man, and that freedom from sin must be a contradiction of man's nature; assuming that evil was an eternal principle and that in consequence man instead of being created in a state of innocence, was really by nature a sinning soul from the first; holding these opinions, they thought that the admission that Christ had a human soul was equivalent to the assertion that he had a sinful nature. Because this admission would dishonor Christ, and lead to the denial of his divinity, degrading him lower even than the first class of Monarchians had done, who held that he was a man and nothing more, the Sabellians thought best to maintain that Christ had no human soul, in order to maintain thereby that he was free from sin. But if they had accepted the doctrine that man was created in a state of innocence from which he afterwards fell : if instead of accepting the notion of evil as an eternal principle, and of sin as a necessity in man ; if they could have allowed that the soul of man was at first holy and that man fell from that first estate by his own voluntary transgression, then they would have found no difficulty in allowing that Christ had a human soul. To have declared that he had such a soul, such as it was before the fall of man, such as this soul was when the “Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul,” would have been to assume Christ's complete human nature, so as at the same time to maintain his sinlessness.
This false view of sin led them to false conceptions of God, by ascribing to him acts of suffering and pain. This appears when in reference to Christ they said that “God was born,” and that “God died.” Because they could not allow that
VOL. VI.—NO. XXXIV.
Christ had a perfect human nature, on account of their false notion of sin, they were obliged to declare that the divine nature suffered ; that God himself suffered, hence in the West they were called Patripassians.
We have already noticed how Sabellianism failed of giving a scriptural account of the resurrection through Christ. The cause of this failure will be seen, in this connection, to lie in the Manichæan notion that the effect of sin was such a contamination of the body that it would not be raised. Sin had ruined the body to such an extent that it could not, in reason, be raised.
For the same reason Sabellianism is never clear in its outlines of eschatology. From the idea of sin as a necessity, and that it must have its course like an epidemic, so as at length to run itself out, the inference is drawn that future punishment will not be eternal, since punishment in running its course must have a purifying influence, and end in the restoration of all from the effects of sin, so that finally all would be brought back into the unity of God. Thus the Sabellian idea of sin, as theology, lies again in close logical sympathy with the Positive Philosophy. For to deny the real personality of Christ both as related to the Father, and as related to man; to assume his return to, and re-absorption in the Father, as a ray of light reabsorbed in the sun ; to conceive the loss of all human personality by the loss of the body in the denial of the resurrection, and then assume the final restoration of all into the unity of God; is, to say with Comte, that “to desire a personal immortality is to desire to perpetuate an error to infinity ; for individual existence is the error from which it should be the aim of life to extricate ourselves.”
Doubtless there were, and are now, many holding more or less to Sabellianism, who for themselves disclaim all sympathy with Pantheism. Our purpose, however, does not lead us to speak of men, only as it is necessary in order to state the doctrine as it may be gathered from its history and tendency. In this respect, the statement of a doctrine is like the work of the naturalist, who, finding parts of a creature, the scale of a fish or the bone of a reptile, is able to construct in symmetry the omplete form and organism.