632. III. THE FAITH IMPUTATIVE OF THE MERIT AND RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST THE REDEEMER, FIRST AROSE FROM THE DECREES OF THE COUNCIL OF NICE RESPECTING THREE DIVINE PERSONS FROM ETERNITY, WHICH FAITH HAS BEEN ACCEPTED BY THE WHOLE CHRISTIAN WORLD FROM THAT TIME TO THE PRESENT.
As to the Nicene Council itself, it was convoked by the emperor Constantine the Great by the advice of Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and was composed of all the bishops in Asia, Africa, and Europe, and was held in his palace at Nice, a city of Bithynia. Its object was to refute and condemn, from the sacred writings, the heresy of Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria, who denied the Divinity of Jesus Christ. This took place in the year of our Lord 325. The members of that council decided that there were from eternity three Divine persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - as appears especially from the two creeds called the Nicene and Athanasian. In the Nicene creed we read:
I believe in one God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, born before all ages, God from God, consubstantial with the Father, who descended from the heavens and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit from the virgin Mary; and in the Holy Spirit, Lord and Vivifier, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.
In the Athanasian creed is the following:
The Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in a Trinity, and the Trinity in unity, neither confounding the Persons nor separating the substance. But as we are compelled by the Christian verity to confess each Person singly to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say three Gods or three Lords.
That is, it is permitted men to confess, but not to say, three Gods and Lords. They may not say so because religion forbids it, but may confess it because the truth so dictates. This Athanasian creed was written out by one or more of those who were present, immediately after the holding of the Nicene Council, and was accepted as ecumenical or Catholic. This shows clearly that it was then decided that three Divine persons from eternity ought to be acknowledged, and that although each Person singly was by Himself God, still they ought not to be called three Gods and Lords, but one.