Both men whose minds have been preoccupied by a heterodox creed and now wish to change over to the congregation of the orthodox, and also those who are now for the first time desirous of being instructed in the doctrine of truth, must be taught the creed drawn up by the blessed fathers in the Council which met at Nicæa. The same training would also be exceedingly useful in the case of all who are under suspicion of being in a state of hostility to sound doctrine, and who by ingenious and plausible excuses keep the depravity of their sentiments out of view. For these too this creed is all that is needed. They will either get cured of their concealed unsoundness, or, by continuing to keep it concealed, will themselves bear the load of the sentence due to their dishonesty, and will provide us with an easy defence in the day of judgment, when the Lord will lift the cover from the hidden things of darkness, and “make manifest the counsels of the hearts.” It is therefore desirable to receive them with the confession not only that they believe in the words put forth by our fathers at Nicæa, but also according to the sound meaning expressed by those words. For there are men who even in this creed pervert the word of truth, and wrest the meaning of the words in it to suit their own notions. So Marcellus, when expressing impious sentiments concerning the hypostasis of our Lord Jesus Christ, and describing Him as being Logos and nothing more, had the hardihood to profess to find a pretext for his principles in that creed by affixing an improper sense upon the Homoousion. Some, moreover, of the impious following of the Libyan Sabellius, who understand hypostasis and substance to be identical, derive ground for the establishment of their blasphemy from the same source, because of its having been written in the creed “if any one says that the Son is of a different substance or hypostasis, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes him.” But they did not there state hypostasis and substance to be identical. Had the words expressed one and the same meaning, what need of both? It is on the contrary clear that while by some it was denied that the Son was of the same substance with the Father, and some asserted that He was not of the substance and was of some other hypostasis, they thus condemned both opinions as outside that held by the Church. When they set forth their own view, they declared the Son to be of the substance of the Father, but they did not add the words “of the hypostasis.” The former clause stands for the condemnation of the faulty view; the latter plainly states the dogma of salvation. We are therefore bound to confess the Son to be of one substance with the Father, as it is written; but the Father to exist in His own proper hypostasis, the Son in His, and the Holy Ghost in His, as they themselves have clearly delivered the doctrine. They indeed clearly and satisfactorily declared in the words Light of Light, that the Light which begat and the Light which was begotten, are distinct, and yet Light and Light; so that the definition of the Substance is one and the same. I will now subjoin the actual creed as it was drawn up at Nicæa.
Now I accept no newer creed written for me by other men, nor do I venture to propound the outcome of my own intelligence, lest I make the words of true religion merely human words; but what I have been taught by the holy Fathers, that I announce to all who question me. In my Church the creed written by the holy Fathers in synod at Nicæa is in use. I believe that it is also repeated among you; but I do not refuse to write its exact terms in my letter, lest I be accused of taking too little trouble. It is as follows: This is our faith. But no definition was given about the Holy Ghost, the Pneumatomachi not having at that date appeared. No mention was therefore made of the need of anathematizing those who say that the Holy Ghost is of a created and ministerial nature. For nothing in the divine and blessed Trinity is created.
You may well imagine what pleasure the letter of your excellencies gave me, if only from its very contents. What, indeed, could give greater gratification to one who prays ever to be in communication with them who fear the Lord, and to share their blessings, than a letter of this kind, wherein questions are asked about the knowledge of God? For if, to me, “to live is Christ,” truly my words ought to be about Christ, my every thought and deed ought to depend upon His commandments, and my soul to be fashioned after His. I rejoice, therefore, at being asked about such things, and congratulate the askers. By me, to speak shortly, the faith of the Fathers assembled at Nicæa is honoured before all later inventions. In it the Son is confessed to be con-substantial with the Father and to be naturally of the same nature with Him who begat Him, for He was confessed to be Light of Light, God of God, and Good of Good, and the like. Both by those holy men the same doctrine was declared, and by me now who pray that I may walk in their footsteps.
What clearer evidence can there be of my faith, than that I was brought up by my grandmother, blessed woman, who came from you? I mean the celebrated Macrina who taught me the words of the blessed Gregory; which, as far as memory had preserved down to her day, she cherished herself, while she fashioned and formed me, while yet a child, upon the doctrines of piety. And when I gained the capacity of thought, my reason being matured by full age, I travelled over much sea and land, and whomsoever I found walking in the rule of godliness delivered, those I set down as fathers,] and made them my soul’s guides in my journey to God. And up to this day, by the grace of Him who has called me in His holy calling to the knowledge of Himself, I know of no doctrine opposed to the sound teaching having sunk into my heart; nor was my soul ever polluted by the ill-famed blasphemy of Arius. If I have ever received into communion any who have come from that teacher, hiding their unsoundness deep within them, or speaking words of piety, or, at any rate, not opposing what has been said by me, it is on these terms that I have admitted them; and I have not allowed my judgment concerning them to rest wholly with myself, but have followed the decisions given about them by our Fathers. For after receiving the letter of the very blessed Father Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, which I hold in my hand, and shew to anyone who asks, wherein he has distinctly declared that any one expressing a wish to come over from the heresy of the Arians and accepting the Nicene Creed, is to be received without hesitation and difficulty, citing in support of his opinion the unanimous assent of the bishops of Macedonia and of Asia; I, considering myself bound to follow the high authority of such a man and of those who made the rule, and with every desire on my own part to win the reward promised to peacemakers, did enroll in the lists of communicants all who accepted that creed.
I, however, brethren beloved, small and insignificant as I am, but remaining ever by God’s grace the same, have never changed with the changes of the world. My creed has not varied at Seleucia, at Constantinople, at Zela, at Lampsacus, and at Rome. My present creed is not different from the former; it has remained ever one and the same. As we received from the Lord, so are we baptized; as we are baptized, so we make profession of our faith; as we make profession of our faith, so do we offer our doxology, not separating the Holy Ghost from Father and Son, nor preferring Him in honour to the Father, or asserting Him to be prior to the Son, as blasphemers’ tongues invent. Who could be so rash as to reject the Lord’s commandment, and boldly devise an order of his own for the Names? But I do not call the Spirit, Who is ranked with Father and Son, a creature. I do not dare to call slavish that which is royal.3111 And I beseech you to remember the threat uttered by the Lord in the words, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” Keep yourselves from dangerous teaching against the Spirit. “Stand fast in the faith.” Look over all the world, and see how small the part is which is unsound. All the rest of the Church which has received the Gospel. from one end of the world to the other, abides in this sound and unperverted doctrine. From their communion I pray that I may never fall, and I pray that I may have part and lot with you in the righteous day of our Lord Jesus Christ, when He shall come to give to every one according to his conduct.