Among the celebrated fathers who have left no record of their views of human destiny, but who, from their positions, and the relations they sustained, must, beyond all rational doubt, have been Universalists, may be mentioned Athenodorus, who was a student of Origen's, and a bishop in Pontus; Heraclas, a convert of Origen's, his assistant and successor in the school at Alexandria, and bishop of Alexandria; Firmilian, a scholar of Origen's, and bishop of Cæsarea; and Palladius, bishop in Asia Minor.
Firmilian, though he wrote little, and is therefore not much known, was certainly very conspicuous in his day. His theology may be gauged from the fact that "he held Origen in such high honor that he sometimes invited him into his own district for the benefit of the churches, and even journeyed to Judea to visit him, spending long periods of time with him in order to improve in his knowledge of theology." 1 He was a warm friend of Dionysius, Cyprian, and Gregory Thaumaturgus, and was chosen president of the Council of Antioch.
Dionysius--styled by Eusebius "the great bishop of the doctrine. He says: "My guardian angel, on our arrival to Cæsarea, handed us over to the care and tuition of Origen, that leader of all, who speaks in undertones to God's dear prophets, and suggests to them all their prophesy and their mystic and divine word, has so honored this man Origen as a friend, as to appoint him to be their interpreter." As Origen spoke, Gregory tells us he kindled a love "in my heart I had not known before. This love induced me to give up country and friends, the aims which I had proposed to myself, the study of law of which I was proud. I had but one passion, one philosophy, and the god-like man who directed me in the pursuit of it." He became bishop of Cæsarea, and was regarded as the incarnation of the orthodoxy of his times. Almost nothing of his writings has survived, but Rufinus, the apologist and defender of Origen, gives a passage, says Allin, showing that he taught the divine truth he learned from his master.
Pamphilus, A.D. 250-309, was one of the greatest scholars of his times. He founded the famous library of Cæsarea, which contained some of the most ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, and also Origen's books in their original Greek. Pamphilus wrote an "Apology" and defense of Origen, with whom he was in full sympathy. Eusebius wrote the biography of Pamphilus in three books. Unfortunately it has been lost, so that nothing survives of the works of this eminent Christian writer and scholar. The esteem in which he was held by Eusebius may be gauged from the fact that after his death Eusebius, "the father of ecclesiastical history," changed his own name to "Pamphilus's Eusebius." The "Apology" contained "very many testimonies of fathers earlier than Origen in favor of restitution." 3 How lamentable that these "testimonies" are lost! What light they would shed on early opinion on the great theme of this book. As Origen was born about ninety years after St. John's death, these very numerous "testimonies" would carry back these doctrines very close, or altogether to the apostolic age.
"With Pamphilus, the era of free Christian theology of the Eastern church ends." Pamphilus, according to Eusebius, was "a man who excelled in every virtue through his whole life whether by a renunciation and contempt of the world, by distributing his substance among the needy, or by a disregard of worldly expectations, and by a philosophical deportment and self-denial. But he was chiefly distinguished above the rest of us by his sincere devotedness to the sacred Scriptures, and by an tireless industry in what he proposed to accomplish, by his great kindness and eagerness to serve all his relatives, and all that approached him." He copied, for the great library in Cæsarea, most of Origen's manuscripts, with his own hands.
Eusebius was probably born in Cæsarea. He was a friend of Origen, and fellow-teacher with him in the Cæsarean school, and published with Pamphilus a glowing defense of Origen in six books, of which five are lost. He also copied and edited many of his works. Dr. Beecher, in his "History of Future Retribution," asserts the Universalism of Eusebius, though Dr. Ballou, in his "Ancient History" does not quote them.
On I Cor. 15:28, Eusebius says: "If the subjection of the Son to the Father means union with him, then the subjection of all to the Son means union with him. Christ is to subject all things to himself. We ought to conceive of this as such a favorable subjection as that by which the Son will be subject to him who subjects all to him." 4 Again on the second psalm: "The Son breaking in pieces his enemies for the sake of remolding them as a potter his own work, as Jer. 18:6, is to restore them once more to their former state." Jerome distinctly says of Eusebius: "He, in the most evident manner, acquiesced in Origen's tenets." His understanding of terms is seen where he twice calls the fire that consumed two martyrs unquenchable" (asbesto puri). Eusebius is as severe in describing the sinner's woes as Augustine himself. He says: "Who those were (whose worm dieth not) he showed in the beginning of the prophecy, 'I have nourished and brought up children and they have set me at nought.' He spoke darkly then of those of the Jews who set at nought the saving grace. Which end of the ungodly our Savior himself also appoints in the Gospel, saying to those who shall stand on the left hand, 'Go ye into the aionian fire, prepared from the devil and his angels.' As then the fire is said to be aionion, se here 'unquenchable,' one and the same substance encircling them according to the Scriptures."
In varied and extensive learning, and as a theologian and writer, and most of all as an historian, Eusebius was far before most of those of his times; and though high in the confidence of his Emperor, Constantine, he did not make his influence contribute to his own personal aggrandizement. He was so kind toward the Arians, with whom he did not agree, that he was accused of Arianism by such as could not see how one could differ from another without hating him. Most of his writings have perished. Of course his name is chiefly immortalized by his "Ecclesiastical History."
Athanasius (A.D. 296-373). This great man was a student of Origen and speaks of him with favor, defends him as orthodox, and quotes him as authority. He argues for the possibility and pardon for even the sin against the Holy Ghost. He says: "Christ captured over again the souls captured by the devil, for that he promised in saying, 'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.'" On Ps. 68:18, "When, then, the whole creation shall meet the Son in the clouds, and shall be subject to him, then, too, shall the Son himself be subject to the Father, as being a faithful Apostle, and High Priest of all creation, that God may be all in all."5 Athanasius nominated Didymus the Blind as president of the Catechetical school of Alexandria, where he presided sixty years, an acknowledged Universalist, which is certainly evidence of the sympathies, if not of the real views of Athanasius. He called Origen a "wonderful and most laborious man," and offers no condemnation of his eschatology.
Didymus, "the illustrations," the Blind, was born, it is supposed, in Alexandria, A.D. 309. He became entirely blind when four years of age, and learned to write by using tablets of wood. He knew the Scriptures by heart, through hearing them read. He died, universally esteemed, A.D. 395. He was held to be strictly orthodox, though known to cherish the views of Origen on universal restoration. After his death, in the councils of A.D. 553, 680, and 787, he was anathematized for advocating Origen's "Abominable doctrine of the transmigration of souls," but nothing is said in condemnation of his pronounced Universalism.
Of the Descent of Christ into Hades, he says,--as translated by Ambrose: "In the liberation of all no one remains a captive; at the time of the Lord's passion, he alone (the devil) was injured, who lost all the captives he was keeping." 6 Didymus argues the final remission of punishment, and universal salvation, in comments on I Timothy and I Peter. He was condemned by name in the council of Constantinople and his works ordered destroyed. Were they in existence no doubt many extracts might be given. Jerome and Rufinus state that he was an advocate of universal restoration. Yet he was honored by the best Christians of his times. Schaff says: "Even men like Jerome, Rufinus, Palladius, and Isadore sat at his feet with admiration." After Jerome turned against Origen (See sketch of Jerome) he declares that Didymus defended Origen's words as pious and Catholic, words that "all churches condemn."
And he adds: "In Didymus we extol his great power of memory, and his purity of faith in the Trinity, but on other points, as to which he unduly trusted Origen, we draw back from him." Schaff declares him to have been a faithful follower of Origen. Socrates calls him "the great bulwark of the true faith," and quotes Antony as saying: "Didymus, let not the loss of your bodily eyes distress you; for although you are deprived of such organs as confer a faculty of perception common to gnats and flies, you should rather rejoice that you have eyes such as angels see with, by which the Deity himself is discerned, and his light comprehended." According to the great Jerome, he "surpassed all of his day in knowledge of the Scriptures." He wrote voluminously, but very little remains.
He says: "For although the Judge at times inflicts tortures and anguish on those who merit them, yet he who more deeply scans the reasons of things, perceiving the purpose of his goodness, who desires to amend the sinner, confesses him to be good."
Again he says: "As men, by giving up their sins, are made subject to him (Christ), so too, the higher intelligences, freed by correction from their willful sins, are made subject to him, on the completion of the dispensation ordered for the salvation of all. God desires to destroy evil, therefore evil is (one) of those things liable to destruction. Now that which is of those things liable to destruction will be destroyed." He is said by Basnage to have held to universal salvation.
These are samples of a large number of extracts that might be made from the most celebrated of the Alexandrine school, representing the type of theology that prevailed in the East, during almost four hundred years. They are not from a few isolated authorities but from the most eminent in the church, and those who gave tone to theological thought, and shaped and gave expression to public opinion. There can be no doubt that they are true exponents of the doctrines of their day, and that man's universal deliverance from sin was the generally accepted view of human destiny, prevalent in the Alexandrine church from the death of the apostles to the end of the Fourth Century. And in this connection it may be repeated that the Catechetical school in Alexandria was taught by Anaxagoras, Pantænus, Origen, Clement, Heraclas, Dionysius, Pierius, Theognostus, Peter Martyr, Arius and Didymus, all Universalists, so far as is known. The last teacher in the Alexandrine school was Didymus. After his day it was removed to Sida in Pamphylia, and soon after it ceased to exist.7
The historian Gieseler records that "the belief in the inalienable capability of improvement in all rational beings, and the limited duration of future punishment, was so general, even in the West, and among the opponents of Origen that, whatever may be said of its not having risen without the influence of Origen's school, it had become entirely independent of his system." So that doctrine may be said to have prevailed all over Christendom, East and West, among "orthodox" and heterodox alike.
Epiphanius, a narrow-minded, credulous, violent-tempered, but sincere man, A.D. 310-404, was bishop of Constantia in Cyprus, A.D. 367. He bitterly opposed Origen, and denounced him for a multitude of errors, but he does not hint that his views of restoration were objectionable to himself, or to the church, at the time he wrote. He "began those miserable Origenistic controversies in which monkish fanaticism combined with personal hatreds and jealousies to brand with heresy the greatest theologian of the primitive church."8 To his personal hatred and bitterness is due much, if not most, of the opposition to Origenism that began in the latter part of the Fourth Century. In an indictment of eighteen counts, published A.D. 380, we find what possibly may have been the first intended censure of Universalism on record, though it will be observed that its animosity is not against the salvation of all mankind, but against the salvability of evil spirits. Epiphanius says: "That which he strove to establish I know not whether to laugh at or grieve. Origen, the renowned doctor, dared to teach that the devil is again to become what he originally was--to return to his former dignity. Oh, wickedness! Who is so mad and stupid as to believe that holy John Baptist, and Peter, and John the Apostle and Evangelist, and that Isaiah also and Jeremiah, and the rest of the prophets, are to become fellow-heirs with the devil in the kingdom of Heaven!"9 The reader can here see the possible origin of the familiar argument of recent times.1 Eusebius, VI:26.
In his book against heresies, "The Panarion," this "hammer of heretics" names eighty; but universal salvation is not among them. The sixty-fourth is "Origenism," but, as is seen elsewhere in this volume, that stood for other dogmas of Origen and not for his Universalism.
Methodius, bishop of Tyre (A.D. 293). His writings, like so many of the works of the early fathers, have been lost, but Epiphanius and Photius have preserved extracts from his work on the resurrection. He says: "God, for this cause, pronounced him (man) mortal, and clothed him with mortality, that man might not be an undying evil, in order that by the dissolution of the body, sin might be destroyed root and branch from beneath, that there might not be left even the smallest particle of root, from which new shoots of sin might break forth." Again, "Christ was crucified that he might be adored by all created things equally, for 'unto him every knee shall bow,'" etc. Again: "The Scriptures usually call 'destruction' the turning to the better at some future time." Again: "The world shall be set on fire in order to purification and renewal."10
The general drift, as well as the definite statements of the minor authorities cited in this chapter, show the dominant sentiment of the times.
Chapter 15--Gregory of Nazianzen - Contents
Spirit of the Word - Covenant Eschatology - Introductory Note - New Stuff
Chapter 1 - The Earliest Creeds
Chapter 2 - Early Christianity-A Cheerful Religion
Chapter 3 - Origin of Endless Punishment
Chapter 4 - Doctrines of Mitigation and Reserve
Chapter 5 - Two Kindred Topics
Chapter 6 - The Apostles' Immediate Successors
Chapter 7 - The Gnostic Sects
Chapter 8 - The Sibylline Oracles
Chapter 9 - Pantaenus and Clement
Chapter 10 - Origen
Chapter 11 - Origen-Continued
Chapter 12 - The Eulogists of Origen
Chapter 13 - A Third Century Group
Chapter 14 - Minor Authorities
Chapter 15 - Gregory Nazianzen
Chapter 16 - Theodore of Mopsuestia and the Nestorians
Chapter 17 - A Notable Family
Chapter 18 - Additional Authorities
Chapter 19 - The Deterioration of Christian Thought
Chapter 20 - Augustine--Deterioration Continued
Chapter 21 - Unsuccessful Attempts to Suppress Universalism
Chapter 22 - The Eclipse of Universalism
Chapter 23 - Summary of Conclusions