Such was the fate of Valens. The barbarians, flushed with victory, overran Thrace, and advanced to the gates of Constantinople. In this emergency, a few of the confederate Saracens sent by Mavia, together with many of the populace, were of great service. It is reported that Dominica, wife of Valens, furnished money out of the public treasury, and some of the people, after hastily arming themselves, attacked the barbarians, and drove them from the city.
Gratian, who at this period reigned conjointly with his brother over the whole Roman Empire, disapproved of the late persecution that had been carried on to check the diversity in religious creeds, and recalled all those who had been banished on account of their religion. He also enacted a law by which it was decreed that every individual should be freely permitted the exercise of his own religion, and should be allowed to hold assemblies, with the exception of the Manichæans and the followers of Photinus and Eunomius.
On reflecting that, while it was indispensably requisite to check the incursions of the barbarians of the Ister in Illyria and Thrace, his presence was equally necessary in Gaul to repel the inroads of the Alemanni, Gratian associated Theodosius with himself at Sirmich, in the government of the empire. Theodosius belonged to an illustrious family of the Pyrenees in Iberia, and had acquired so much renown in war, that before he was raised to the imperial power, he was universally considered capable of guiding the reins of the empire.
At this period all the churches of the East, with the exception of that of Jerusalem, were in the hands of the Arians. The Macedonians differed but little in opinion from those who maintained the doctrine of Nicæa, and held intercourse and communion with them in all the cities; and this had been more especially the case with the Macedonians of Constantinople, ever since their reconciliation with Liberius. But after the enactment of Gratian's law, some bishops of the Macedonian heresy took courage and repossessed the churches from which they had been ejected by Valens. They assembled together at Antioch in Caria, and protested that the Son is not to be declared
consubstantial with the Father, but only like Him in substance. From that period, many of the Macedonians seceded from the others, and held separate churches; while others, condemning this opposition and contentiousness of those who had made these decisions, united themselves still more firmly with the followers of the Nicene doctrines.
Many of the bishops who had been banished by Valens, and who were recalled about this period in consequence of the law of Gratian, manifested no ambition to be restored to the highest offices of the Church; but they preferred the unity of the people, and therefore begged the Arian bishops to retain the posts they occupied, and not to rend by dissension the Church, which had been transmitted by God and the apostles as one, but which contentiousness and ambition for precedence had divided into many parts. Eulalius, bishop of Amasia in Pontus, was one of those who pursued this course of conduct. It is said that when he returned from exile, he found that his church was presided over by an Arian bishop, and that scarcely fifty inhabitants of the city had submitted to the control of this new bishop. Eulalius, desiring unity above all other considerations, offered to take part with the Arian bishop in the government of the church, and expressly agreed to allow him the precedence. But as the Arian would not comply with this proposition, it was not long before he found himself deserted by the few who had followed him, and who went over to the other party.
In consequence of this law, Meletius returned about this period to Antioch in Syria; and his presence gave rise to great contention among the people. Paulinus, whom Valens, from veneration for his piety, had not ventured to banish, was still alive. The partisans of Meletius, therefore, proposed his association with Paulinus, who condemned the ordination of Meletius, because it had been conferred by Arian bishops; and yet the supporters of Meletius went forward by force into the work they had devised; for they were not few in number, and so placed Meletius on the episcopal throne in one of the suburban churches. The mutual animosity of the two parties increased, and sedition was expected, had not a remarkable plan for the restoration of concord prevailed. For it seemed best, to take oaths from those who were considered eligible, or who were expected to occupy the episcopal see of that place. Of these there were five besides Flavian. These promised that they would neither strive for, nor accept the episcopate should an ordination take place among them during the life of Paulinus and Meletius, and that in the event of the decease of either of these great men, the other alone should succeed to the bishopric. On their ratifying this promise with oaths, unanimity was restored among almost all the people; a few of the Luciferites still diverged because Meletius had been ordained by heretics. On the termination of this contest, Meletius proceeded to Constantinople, where many other bishops had assembled together to deliberate on the necessity of translating Gregory from the bishopric of Nazianzen to that of this city.
As Gaul was about this period infested by the incursions of the Alemanni, Gratian returned to his paternal dominions, which he had reserved for himself and his brother, when he bestowed the government of Illyria and of the Eastern provinces upon Theodosius. He effected his purpose with regard to the barbarians; and Theodosius was equally successful against the tribes from the banks of the Ister; he defeated them, compelled them to sue for peace, and, after accepting hostages from them, proceeded to Thessalonica. He fell ill while in this city, and after receiving instruction from Ascholius, the bishop, he was initiated, and was soon after restored to health. The parents of Theodosius were Christians, and were attached to the Nicene doctrines; he was pleased with Ascholius, who maintained the same doctrines, and was, in a word, endowed with every virtue of the priesthood. He also rejoiced at finding that the Arian heresy had not been participated in by Illyria. He inquired concerning the religious sentiments which were prevalent in the other provinces, and ascertained that, as far as Macedonia, all the churches were like minded, and all held that equal homage ought to be rendered to God the Word, and to the Holy Ghost, as to God the Father; but that towards the East, and particularly at Constantinople, the people were divided into many different heresies. Reflecting that it would be better to propound his own religious views to his subjects, so as not to appear to be using force by commanding the unwilling subject to worship contrary to his judgment, Theodosius enacted a law at Thessalonica, which he caused to be published at Constantinople, well knowing that the rescript would speedily become public to all the other cities, if issued from that city, which is as a citadel of the whole empire. He made known by this law his intention of leading all his subjects to the reception of that faith which Peter, the chief of the apostles, had, from the beginning, preached to the Romans, and which was professed by Damasus, bishop of Rome, and by Peter, bishop of Alexandria. He enacted that the title of heretics, regarded with contempt, and delivered over to punishment.
Consubstantialwith the Father.
Soon after the enactment of this law, Theodosius went to Constantinople. The Arians, under the guidance of Demophilus, still retained possession of the churches. Gregory of Nazianzen presided over those who maintain the
consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity, and assembled them together in a little dwelling, which had been altered into the form of a house of prayer, by those who held the same opinions and had a like form of worship. It subsequently became one of the most conspicuous in the city, and is so now, not only for the beauty and number of its structures, but also for the advantages accruing to it from the visible manifestations of God. For the power of God was there manifested, and was helpful both in waking visions and in dreams, often for the relief of many diseases and for those afflicted by some sudden transmutation in their affairs. The power was accredited to Mary, the Mother of God, the holy virgin, for she does manifest herself in this way. The name of Anastasia was given to this church, because, as I believe, the Nicene doctrines which were fallen into disuse in Constantinople, and, so to speak, buried by reason of the power of the heterodox, arose from the dead and were again quickened through the discourses of Gregory; or, as I have heard, some affirm with assurance that one day, when the people were met together for worship in this edifice, a pregnant woman fell from the highest gallery, and was found dead on the spot; but that, at the prayer of the whole congregation, she was restored to life, and she and the infant were saved. On account of the occurrence of this divine marvel, the place, as some assert, obtained its name.
The emperor sent to command Demophilus to conform to the doctrines of Nicæa, and to lead the people to embrace the same sentiments, or else to vacate the churches. Demophilus assembled the people, acquainted them with the imperial edict, and informed them that it was his intention to hold a church the next day without the walls of the city, in accordance, he said, with the Divine law, which commands us when we are persecuted in one city to
flee unto another. Matthew 10:23 From that day he always held church without the city with Lucius, who was formerly the bishop of the Arians at Alexandria; and who, after having been expelled, as above related, from that city, fled to Constantinople and fixed his residence there. When Demophilus and his followers had quitted the church, the emperor entered therein and engaged in prayer; and from that period those who maintained the consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity held possession of the houses of prayer. These events occurred in the fifth year of the consulate of Gratian, and in the first of that of Theodosius, and after the churches had been during forty years in the hands of the Arians.
The Arians, who were still very strong in point of numbers, and who, through the protection formerly granted by Constantius and Valens, were still convening without fear, and discoursing publicly concerning God and the Divine nature, now determined upon making an attempt to gain over the emperor to their party, through the intervention of individuals of their sect who held appointments at court; and they entertained hopes of succeeding in this project, as well as they had succeeded in the case of Constantius. These machinations excited great anxiety and fear among the members of the Catholic Church; but the chief cause of their apprehension was the reasoning power of Eunomius. It appears that, during the reign of Valens, Eunomius had some dispute with his own clergy at Cyzicus, and had in consequence seceded from the Arians, and retired to Bithynia, near Constantinople. Here multitudes resorted to him; some also gathered from different quarters, a few with the design of testing his principles, and others merely from the desire of listening to his discourses. His reputation reached the ears of the emperor, who would gladly have held a conference with him. But the Empress Flacilla studiously prevented an interview from taking place between them; for she was the most faithful guard of the Nicene doctrines, and feared lest Eunomius might, by his powers of disputation, induce a change in the sentiments of the emperor.
In the meantime, while these intrigues were being carried on by each party, it is said that the bishops then residing in Constantinople went to the emperor, to render him the customary salutations. An old priest from a city of little note, and who was simple and unworldly, yet well instructed in Divine subjects, formed one of this party. The rest saluted the emperor with uncovered head and very reverently. The aged priest greeted him in the same form; but, instead of rendering equal honor to the prince, who was seated beside his father, the old priest approached him, patted him familiarly, and called him his dear child. The emperor was incensed and enraged at the indignity offered to his son, in that he had not been accorded like honor; and commanded that the old man should be thrust from his presence with violence. While being pushed away, hither and there, however, the old priest turned around and exclaimed,
Reflect, O emperor, on the wrath of the Heavenly Father against those who do not honor His Son as Himself, and who have the audacity to assert that the Son is inferior to the Father. The emperor felt the force of this observation, recalled the priest, apologized to him for what had occurred, and confessed that he had spoken the truth. The emperor was henceforward less disposed to hold intercourse with heretics, and he prohibited contests and assemblies in the markets. He made it dangerous to hold discussions of this kind about the substance and nature of God, by enacting a law, and defining the punishments in this matter.
The emperor soon after convened a council of orthodox bishops, for the purpose of confirming the decrees of Nicæa, and of electing a bishop to the vacant see of Constantinople. He likewise summoned the Macedonians to this assembly; for as their doctrines differed but little from those of the Catholic Church, he judged that it would be easy to effect a reunion with them. About a hundred and fifty bishops who maintained the consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity, were present at this council, as likewise thirty-six of the Macedonian bishops, chiefly from the cities of the Hellespont; of whom the principal were Eleusius, bishop of Cyzicus, and Marcian, bishop of Lampsacus. The other party was under the guidance of Timothy, who had succeeded his brother Peter in the see of Alexandria; of Meletius, bishop of Antioch, who had repaired to Constantinople a short time previously, on account of the election of Gregory, and of Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, who had at this period renounced the tenets of the Macedonians which he previously held. Ascholius, bishop of Thessalonica, Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus, and Acacius, bishop of Berea, were also present at the council. These latter unanimously maintained the decrees of Nicæa, and urged Eleusius and his partisans to conform to these sentiments, reminding them, at the same time, of the embassy they had formerly deputed to Liberius, and of the confession they conveyed to him through the medium of Eustathius, Silvanus, and Theophilus, as has been narrated. The Macedonians, however, declared openly that they would never admit the Son to be of the same substance as the Father, whatever confession they might formerly have made to Liberius, and immediately withdrew. They then wrote to those of their adherents in every city, exhorting them not to conform to the doctrines of Nicæa.
The bishops who remained at Constantinople now turned their attention to the election of a prelate to the see of that city. It is said that the emperor, from profound admiration of the sanctity and eloquence of Gregory, judged that he was worthy of this bishopric, and that, from reverence of his virtue, the greater number of the Synod was of the same opinion. Gregory at first consented to accept the presidency of the church of Constantinople; but afterwards, on ascertaining that some of the bishops, particularly those of Egypt, objected to the election, he withdrew his consent. For my part, this wisest of men is worthy of admiration, not only for universal qualifications, but not the least for his conduct under the present circumstances. His eloquence did not inspire him with pride, nor did vainglory lead him to desire the control of a church, which he had received when it was no longer in danger. He surrendered his appointment to the bishops when it was required of him, and never complained of his many labors, or of the dangers he had incurred in the suppression of heresies. Had he retained possession of the bishopric of Constantinople, it would have been no detriment to the interests of any individual, as another bishop had been appointed in his stead at Nazianzen. But the council, in strict obedience to the laws of the fathers and ecclesiastical order, withdrew from him, with his own acquiescence, the deposit which had been confided to him, without making an exception in favor of so eminent a man. The emperor and the priests therefore proceeded to the election of another bishop, which they regarded as the most important affair then requiring attention; and the emperor was urgent that diligent investigations might be instituted, so that the most excellent and best individual might be entrusted with the high-priesthood of the great and royal city. The council, however, was divided in sentiment; for each of the members desired to see one of his own friends ordained over the church.
A certain man of Tarsus in Cilicia, of the illustrious order of senator, was at this period residing at Constantinople. Being about to return to his own country, he called upon Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus, to inquire whether he had any letters to send by him. Diodorus was fully intent upon the ordination, which was the subject then engrossing universal attention of the men. He had no sooner seen Nectarius than he considered him worthy of the bishopric, and straightway determined this in his own mind as he reflected on the venerable age of the man, his form so befitting a priest, and the suavity of his manners. He conducted him, as if upon some other business, to the bishop of Antioch, and requested him to use his influence to procure this election. The bishop of Antioch derided this request, for the names of the most eminent men had already been proposed for consideration. He, however, called Nectarius to him, and desired him to remain for a short time with him. Some time after, the emperor commanded the priests to draw up a list of the names of those whom they thought worthy of the ordination, reserving to himself the right of choosing any one of those whose names were thus submitted to him. All the bishops complied with this mandate; and, among the others, the bishop of Antioch wrote down the names of those whom he proposed as candidates for the bishopric, and, at the end of his list, from consideration for Diodorus, he inserted the name of Nectarius. The emperor read the list of those inscribed and stopped at the name of Nectarius at the end of the document, on which he placed his finger, and seemed for some time lost in reflection; ran it up to the beginning, and again went through the whole, and chose Nectarius. This nomination excited great astonishment and all the people were anxious to ascertain who Nectarius was, his manner of life, and birthplace. When they heard that he had not been initiated their amazement was increased at the decision of the emperor. I believe that Diodorus himself was not aware that Nectarius had not been baptized; for, had he been acquainted with this fact, he would not have ventured to give his vote for the priesthood to one uninitiated. It appears reasonable to suppose, that on perceiving that Nectarius was of advanced age, he took it for granted that he had been initiated long previously. But these events did not take place without the interposition of God. For when the emperor was informed that Nectarius had not been initiated, he remained of the same opinion, although opposed by many priests. When at last, consent had been given to the imperial mandate, Nectarius was initiated, and while yet clad in his initiatory robes, was proclaimed bishop of Constantinople by the unanimous voice of the Synod. Many have conjectured that the emperor was led to make this election by a Divine revelation. I shall not decide whether this conjecture be true or false; but I feel convinced, when I reflect on the extraordinary circumstances attending this ordination, that the events were not brought about without the Divine strength; and that God led this mild and virtuous and excellent man into the priesthood. Such are the details which I have been able to ascertain concerning the ordination of Nectarius.
After these transactions, Nectarius and the other priests assembled together, and decreed that the faith established by the council of Nicæa should remain dominant, and that all heresies should be condemned; that the churches everywhere should be governed according to the ancient canons; that each bishop should remain in his own church, and not go elsewhere under any light pretext; or, without invitation, perform ordinations in which he had no right to interfere, as had frequently been the case in the Catholic Church during the times of persecution. They likewise decreed that the affairs of each church should be subjected to the investigation and control of a council of the province; and that the bishop of Constantinople should rank next in point of precedence to the bishop of Rome, as occupying the see of New Rome; for Constantinople was not only already favored with this appellation, but was also in the enjoyment of many privileges,— such as a senate of its own, and the division of the citizens into ranks and orders; it was also governed by its own magistrates, and possessed contracts, laws, and immunities in equal degree with those of Rome in Italy.
The council also decreed that Maximus had not been nor was now a bishop; and that those individuals whom he had ordained were not of the clergy; and that all that had been done by him, or in his name, was null and void. Maximus was a native of Alexandria, and, by profession, a cynical philosopher. He was zealously attached to the Nicene doctrines, and had been secretly ordained bishop of Constantinople by bishops who had assembled in that city from Egypt.
Such were the decrees of the council. They were confirmed by the emperor, who enacted that the faith established at Nicæa should be dominant, and that the churches everywhere should be placed in the hands of those who acknowledged one and the same Godhead in the hypostasis of three Persons of equal honor and of equal power; namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. To designate them still more precisely, the emperor declared that he referred to those who held communion with Nectarius, at Constantinople, and with Timothy, bishop of Alexandria, in Egypt; in the churches of the East with Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus, and in Syria with Pelagius, bishop of Laodicea, and in Asia with Amphilochius, president of the churches in Iconium; to those in the cities by the Pontus, from Bithynia to Armenia, who held communion with Helladius, bishop of the church of Cæsarea in Cappadocia; with Gregory, bishop of Nyssa; and with Otreinus, bishop of Melitine; and to the cities of Thrace and Scythia, who held communion with Terentius, bishop of Tomi, and with Martyrius, bishop of Marcianopolis. The emperor was personally acquainted with all these bishops, and had ascertained that they governed their respective churches wisely and piously. After these transactions, the council was dissolved, and each of the bishops returned homewards.
Nectarius made himself acquainted with the routine of sacerdotal ceremonies under the instruction of Cyriacus, bishop of Adana, whom he had requested Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus, to leave with him for a short period. Nectarius also retained several other Cilicians with him, among whom was Martyrius, his physician, who had been a witness of the irregularities of his youth. Nectarius was desirous of ordaining him deacon; but Martyrius refused the honor under the plea of his own unworthiness of such a divine service, and called upon Nectarius himself to witness as to the course of his past life. To this Nectarius replied as follows:
Although I am now a priest, do you not know that my past career was a more guilty one than yours, inasmuch as you were but an instrument in my numerous profligacies?
But you, O blessed one, replied Martyrius,
were cleansed by baptism, and were then accounted worthy of the priesthood. Both these ordinances are appointed by the Divine law for purification from sin, and it seems to me that you now differ in no respect from a new-born infant; but I long ago received holy baptism, and have since continued in the same abusive course. It was under this plea that he excused himself from receiving ordination; and I commend the man for his refusal, and therefore would give him a part in my history.
The Emperor Theodosius, on being informed of various events connected with Paul, formerly bishop of Constantinople, caused his body to be removed to the church erected by Macedonius, his enemy, and buried there. This temple is a spacious and most distinguished edifice, and is still named after Paul. Hence many persons who are ignorant of the facts of the case, particularly women and the mass of the people, imagine that Paul, the apostle, is interred therein. The remains of Meletius were at the same time conveyed to Antioch, and deposited near the tomb of Babylas the martyr. It is said that through every public way, by the command of the emperor, the relics were received within the walls in every city, contrary to Roman custom, and were honored with singing of psalms antiphonally in such places, until they were transferred to Antioch.
After the pompous interment of the remains of Meletius, Flavian was ordained in his stead, and that, too, in direct violation of the oath he had taken; for Paulinus was still alive. This gave rise to fresh troubles in the church of Antioch. Many persons refused to maintain communion with Flavian, and held their church apart with Paulinus. Even the priests differed among themselves on this subject. The Egyptians, Arabians, and Cypriots were indignant at the injustice that had been manifested towards Paulinus. On the other hand, the Syrians, the Palestinians, the Phœnicians, and the greater part of Armenia, Cappadocia, Galatia, and Pontus, sided with Flavian. The bishop of Rome, and all the Western priests, regarded the conduct of Flavian with the utmost displeasure. They addressed the customary epistles, called synodical, to Paulinus as bishop of Antioch, and took no notice of Flavian. They also withdrew from communion with Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus, and Acacius, bishop of Berea, because they had ordained Flavian. To take further cognizance of the affair, the Western bishops and the Emperor Gratian wrote to the bishops of the East, and summoned them to attend a council in the West.
Although all the houses of prayer were at this period in the possession of the Catholic Church, many troubles occurred in various parts of the empire, instigated by the Arians. The Emperor Theodosius, therefore, soon after the council above mentioned, again summoned together the presidents of the sects which were flourishing, in order that they might either bring others to their own state of conviction on disputed topics, or be convinced themselves; for he imagined that all would be brought to oneness of opinion, if a free discussion were entered into, concerning ambiguous points of doctrine. The council, therefore, was convened. This occurred in the year of the second consulate of Merobaudes, and the first of Saturninus, and at the same period that Arcadius was associated with his father in the government of the empire. Theodosius sent for Nectarius, consulted with him concerning the coming Synod, and commanded him to introduce the discussion of all questions which had given rise to heresies, so that the church of the believers in Christ might be one, and might agree on the doctrine according to which piety ought to be observed. When Nectarius returned home, feeling anxious about the affair confided to him, he made known the mandate of the emperor to Agelius, the president of the church of the Novatians, who held the same religious sentiments as himself. Agelius proved the virtue of his life by works, but was unaccustomed to the finesse and deception of words; he therefore proposed as a substitute, one of his readers, by name Sisinius, who afterwards succeeded him as bishop, a man who could see what was practical, and could debate, if that were necessary. Sisinius possessed powers of intellect and of expression; he had an accurate knowledge of the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, and was well acquainted with profane and with ecclesiastical literature. He proposed that all disputation with the heterodox, as being a fruitful source of contention and war, should be avoided; but recommended that inquiries should rather be instituted, as to whether the heretics admitted the testimony of the expositors and teachers of the sacred words, who lived before the Church was rent in division.
If they reject the testimony of these great men, said he,
they will be condemned by their own followers; but if they admit their authority as being adequate to resolve ambiguous points of doctrine, we will produce their books. For Sisinius was well aware that, as the ancients recognized the Son to be eternal like the Father, they had never presumed to assert that He had had an origin from some beginning. This suggestion received the approbation of Nectarius, and afterwards of the emperor; and investigations were set on foot as to the opinions entertained by heretics concerning the ancient interpreters of Scripture. As it was found that the heretics professed to hold these early writers in great admiration, the emperor asked them openly whether they would defer to the authority of the aforesaid on controverted topics, and test their own doctrines by the sentiments propounded in those works. This proposition excited great contention among the leaders of the various heretical sects, for they did not all hold the same view about the books of the ancients; the emperor knew that they were convicted by the debates over their own words alone, and withdrew the proposition. He blamed them for their opinion, and commanded each party to draw up a written exposition of its own creed. On the day appointed for the presentation of these documents, Nectarius and Agelius appeared at the palace, as representatives of those who maintain the consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity; Demophilus, the Arian president, came forward as the deputy of the Arians; Eunomius represented the Eunomians; and Eleusius, bishop of Cyzicus, appeared for the sectarians denominated Macedonians. The emperor, after receiving their formularies, expressed himself in favor of that one alone in which consubstantiality of the Trinity was recognized, and destroyed the others. The interests of the Novatians were not affected by this transaction, for they held the same doctrines as the Catholic Church concerning the Divine nature. The members of the other sects were indignant with the priests for having entered into unwise disputations in the presence of the emperor. Many renounced their former opinions, and embraced the authorized form of religion. The emperor enacted a law, prohibiting heretics from holding churches, from giving public instructions in the faith, and from conferring ordination on bishops or others. Some of the heterodox were expelled from the cities and villages, while others were disgraced and deprived of the privileges enjoyed by other subjects of the empire. Great as were the punishments adjudged by the laws against heretics, they were not always carried into execution, for the emperor had no desire to persecute his subjects; he only desired to enforce uniformity of view about God through the medium of intimidation. Those who voluntarily renounced heretical opinions received commendation from him.
As the Emperor Gratian was at this period occupied with a war against the Alamanni, Maximus quitted Britain, with the design of usurping the imperial power. Valentinian was then residing in Italy, but as he was a minor, the affairs of state were transacted by Probus, a prætorian prefect, who had formerly been consul.
Justina, the mother of the emperor, having espoused the Arian heresy, persecuted Ambrose, bishop of Milan, and disquieted the churches by her efforts to introduce alterations in the Nicene doctrines, and to obtain the predominance of the form of belief set forth at Ariminum. She was incensed against Ambrose because he strenuously opposed her attempts at innovation, and she represented to her son that he had insulted her. Valentinian believed this calumny, and, determined to avenge the supposed wrongs of his mother, he sent a party of soldiers against the church. On their reaching the temple, they forced their way into the interior, arrested Ambrose, and were about to lead him into exile at that very moment, when the people assembled in crowds at the church, and evinced a resolution to die rather than submit to the banishment of their priest. Justina was still further incensed at this occurrence; and with a view of enforcing her project by law, she sent for Menivolus, one of the legal secretaries, and commanded him to draw up, as quickly as possible, an edict confirmatory of the decrees of Ariminum. Menivolus, being firmly attached to the Catholic Church, refused to write the document, and the empress tried to bribe him by promises of greater honors. He still, however, refused compliance, and, tearing off his belt, he threw it at the feet of Justina, and declared that he would neither retain his present office, nor accept of promotion, as the reward of impiety. As he remained firm in his refusal, others were entrusted with the compilation of the law. By this law, all who conformed to the doctrines set forth at Ariminum and ratified at Constantinople were exhorted to convene boldly; and it was enacted that death should be the punishment of those who should hinder or be running counter to this law of the emperor.
While the mother of the emperor was planning the means of carrying this cruel law into execution, intelligence was brought of the murder of Gratian, through the treachery of Andragathius, the general of Maximus. Andragathius obtained possession of the imperial chariot, and sent word to the emperor that his consort was traveling towards his camp. Gratian, who was but recently married and youthful, as well as passionately attached to his wife, hastened incautiously across the river, and in his anxiety to meet her fell without forethought into the hands of Andragathius; he was seized, and, in a little while, put to death. He was in the twenty-fourth year of his age, and had reigned fifteen years. This calamity quieted Justina's wrath against Ambrose.
Maximus, in the meantime, raised a large army of Britons, neighboring Gauls, Celts, and other nations, and marched into Italy. The pretext which he advanced for this measure was, that he desired to prevent the introduction of innovations in the ancient form of religion and of ecclesiastical order; but he was in reality actuated by the desire of dispelling any suspicion that might have been excited as to his aspirations after tyranny. He was watching and intriguing for the imperial rule in such a way that it might appear as if he had acquired the Roman government by law, and not by force. Valentinian was compelled by the exigencies of the times to recognize the symbols of his rule; but soon after, in fear of suffering, fled with his mother Justina, and Probus, the prætorian prefect in Italy, to Thessalonica.
While Theodosius was making preparations for a war against Maximus, his son Honorius was born. On the completion of these warlike preparations, he left his son Arcadius to govern at Constantinople, and proceeded to Thessalonica, where he received Valentinian. He refused either to dismiss openly, or to give audience to the embassy sent by Maximus, but continued his journey at the head of his troops towards Italy.
About this period, Agelius, bishop of the Novatians at Constantinople, feeling his end approaching, nominated Sisinius, one of the presbyters of his church, as his successor. The people, however, murmured that the preference had not rather been given to Marcian, who was noted on account of his piety, and Agelius therefore ordained him, and addressed the people who were assembled in the church in the following words:
After me you shall have Marcian for your bishop, and after him, Sisinius. Agelius died soon after he had uttered these words. He had governed his church forty years with the greatest approbation from his own heretical party; and some assert that during the times of Pagan persecution, he had openly confessed the name of Christ.
Not long after Timothy and Cyril died; Theophilus succeeded to the see of Alexandria, and John to that of Jerusalem. Demophilus, leader of the Arians at Constantinople, likewise died and was succeeded by Marinus of Thrace; but he was superseded by Dorotheus, who soon after arrived from Antioch in Syria, and who was considered by his sect to be better qualified for the office than Marinus.
Theodosius, having in the meantime entered Italy, various conflicting reports were spread as to the success of his arms. It was rumored among the Arians that the greater part of his army had been cut to pieces in battle, and that he himself had been captured by the tyrant; and assuming this report to be true, these sectarians became bold and ran to the house of Nectarius and set it on fire, from indignation at the power which the bishop had obtained over the churches. The emperor, however, carried out his purpose in the war, for the soldiers of Maximus, impelled by fear of the preparations against them, or treachery, seized and slew the tyrant. Andragathius, the murderer of Gratian, no sooner heard of the death of Maximus, than he leaped into the river with his armor, and perished. The war having been thus terminated, and the death of Gratian avenged, Theodosius, accompanied by Valentinian, celebrated a triumph in Rome, and restored order in the churches of Italy, for the Empress Justina was dead.
Paulinus, bishop of Antioch, died about this period, and those who had been convened into a church with him persisted in their aversion to Flavian, although his religious sentiments were precisely the same as their own, because he had violated the oath he had formerly made to Meletius. They, therefore, elected Evagrius as their bishop. Evagrius did not long survive this appointment, and although Flavian prevented the election of another bishop, those who had seceded from communion with him, still continued to hold their assemblies apart.
About this period, the bishop of Alexandria, to whom the temple of Dionysus had, at his own request, been granted by the emperor, converted the edifice into a church. The statues were removed, the adyta were exposed; and, in order to cast contumely on the pagan mysteries, he made a procession for the display of these objects; the phalli, and whatever other object had been concealed in the adyta which really was, or seemed to be, ridiculous, he made a public exhibition of. The pagans, amazed at so unexpected an exposure, could not suffer it in silence, but conspired together to attack the Christians. They killed many of the Christians, wounded others, and seized the Serapion, a temple which was conspicuous for beauty and vastness and which was seated on an eminence. This they converted into a temporary citadel; and hither they conveyed many of the Christians, put them to the torture, and compelled them to offer sacrifice. Those who refused compliance were crucified, had both legs broken, or were put to death in some cruel manner. When the sedition had prevailed for some time, the rulers came and urged the people to remember the laws, to lay down their arms, and to give up the Serapion. There came then Romanus, the general of the military legions in Egypt; and Evagrius was the prefect of Alexandria As their efforts, however, to reduce the people to submission were utterly in vain, they made known what had transpired to the emperor. Those who had shut themselves up in the Serapion prepared a more spirited resistance, from fear of the punishment that they knew would await their audacious proceedings, and they were further instigated to revolt by the inflammatory discourses of a man named Olympius, attired in the garments of a philosopher, who told them that they ought to die rather than neglect the gods of their fathers. Perceiving that they were greatly dispirited by the destruction of the idolatrous statues, he assured them that such a circumstance did not warrant their renouncing their religion; for that the statues were composed of corruptible materials, and were mere pictures, and therefore would disappear; whereas, the powers which had dwelt within them, had flown to heaven. By such representations as these, he retained the multitude with him in the Serapion.
When the emperor was informed of these occurrences, he declared that the Christians who had been slain were blessed, inasmuch as they had been admitted to the honor of martyrdom, and had suffered in defense of the faith. He offered free pardon to those who had slain them, hoping that by this act of clemency they would be the more readily induced to embrace Christianity; and he commanded the demolition of the temples in Alexandria which had been the cause of the popular sedition. It is said that, when this imperial edict was read in public, the Christians uttered loud shouts of joy, because the emperor laid the odium of what had occurred upon the pagans. The people who were guarding the Serapion were so terrified at hearing these shouts, that they took to flight, and the Christians immediately obtained possession of the spot, which they have retained ever since. I have been informed that, on the night preceding this occurrence, Olympius heard the voice of one singing hallelujah in the Serapion. The doors were shut and everything was still; and as he could see no one, but could only hear the voice of the singer, he at once understood what the sign signified; and unknown to any one he quitted the Serapion and embarked for Italy. It is said that when the temple was being demolished, some stones were found, on which were hieroglyphic characters in the form of a cross, which on being submitted to the inspection of the learned, were interpreted as signifying the life to come. These characters led to the conversion of several of the pagans, as did likewise other inscriptions found in the same place, and which contained predictions of the destruction of the temple. It was thus that the Serapion was taken, and, a little while after, converted into a church; it received the name of the Emperor Arcadius.
There were still pagans in many cities, who contended zealously in behalf of their temples; as, for instance, the inhabitants of Petræa and of Areopolis, in Arabia; of Raphi and Gaza, in Palestine; of Heriopolis in Phœnicia; and of Apamea, on the river Axius, in Syria. I have been informed that the inhabitants of the last-named city often armed the men of Galilee and the peasants of Lebanon in defense of their temples; and that at last, they even carried their audacity to such a height, as to slay a bishop named Marcellus. This bishop had commanded the demolition of all the temples in the city and villages, under the supposition that it would not be easy otherwise for them to be converted from their former religion. Having heard that there was a very spacious temple at Aulon, a district of Apamea, he repaired there with a body of soldiers and gladiators. He stationed himself at a distance from the scene of conflict, beyond the reach of the arrows; for he was afflicted with the gout, and was unable to fight, to pursue, or to flee. Whilst the soldiers and gladiators were engaged in the assault against the temple, some pagans, discovering that he was alone, hastened to the place where he was separated from the combat; they arose suddenly and seized him, and burnt him alive. The perpetrators of this deed were not then known, but, in course of time, they were detected, and the sons of Marcellus determined upon avenging his death. The council of the province, however, prohibited them from executing this design, and declared that it was not just that the relatives or friends of Marcellus should seek to avenge his death; when they should rather return thanks to God for having accounted him worthy to die in such a cause.
Nectarius, about this period, abolished the office of the presbyter whose duty it was to preside over the imposition of penance; and this is the first instance of the suppression of this office in the Church. This example was followed by the bishops of every region. Various accounts have been given of the nature, the origin, and the cause of the abolition of this office. I shall state my own views on the subject. Impeccability is a Divine attribute, and belongs not to human nature; therefore God has decreed that pardon should be extended to the penitent, even after many transgressions. As in supplicating for pardon, it is requisite to confess the sin, it seems probable that the priests, from the beginning, considered it irksome to make this confession in public, before the whole assembly of the people. They therefore appointed a presbyter, of the utmost sanctity, and the most undoubted prudence, to act on these occasions; the penitents went to him, and confessed their transgressions; and it was his office to indicate the kind of penance adapted to each sin, and then when satisfaction had been made, to pronounce absolution. As the custom of doing penance never gained ground among the Novatians, regulations of this nature were of course unnecessary among them; but the custom prevailed among all other heretics, and prevails even to the present day. It is observed with great rigor by the Western churches, particularly at Rome, where there is a place appropriated to the reception of penitents, in which spot they stand and mourn until the completion of the services, for it is not lawful for them to take part in the mysteries; then they cast themselves, with groans and lamentations, prostrate on the ground. The bishop conducts the ceremony, sheds tears, and prostrates himself in like manner; and all the people burst into tears, and groan aloud. Afterwards, the bishop rises first from the ground, and raises up the others; he offers up prayer on behalf of the penitents, and then dismisses them. Each of the penitents subjects himself in private to voluntary suffering, either by fastings, by abstaining from the bath or from various kinds of meats, or by other prescribed means, until a certain period appointed by the bishop. When the time arrives, he is made free from the consequences of his sin, and assembles at the church with the people. The Roman priests have carefully observed this custom from the beginning to the present time. In the church at Constantinople, a presbyter was always appointed to preside over the penitents, until a lady of the nobility made a deposition to the effect, that when she resorted as a penitent to the presbyter, to fast and offer supplications to God, and tarried for that purpose, in the church, a rape had been committed on her person by the deacon. Great displeasure was manifested by the people when this occurrence was made known to them, on account of the discredit that would result to the church; and the priests, in particular, were thereby greatly scandalized. Nectarius, after much hesitation as to what means ought to be adopted, deposed the deacon; and, at the advice of certain persons, who urged the necessity of leaving each individual to examine himself before participating in the sacred mysteries, he abolished the office of the presbyter presiding over penance. From that period, therefore, the performance of penance fell into disuse; and it seems to me, that extreme laxity of principle was thus substituted for the severity and rigor of antiquity. Under the ancient system, I think, offenses were of rarer occurrence; for people were deterred from their commission, by the dread of confessing them, and of exposing them to the scrutiny of a severe judge. I believe it was from similar considerations, that the Emperor Theodosius, who was always zealous in promoting the glory of the Church, issued a law, enacting that women should not be admitted into the ministry, unless they had had children, and were upwards of sixty years of age, according to the precept of the Apostle Paul. By this law it was also decreed, that women who had shaved their heads should be ejected from the churches; and that the bishop by whom such women were admitted should be deposed from the bishopric.
Such subjects as the above, however, are best left to the decision of individual judgment.
The emperor, about this period, condemned Eunomius to banishment. This heretic had fixed his residence in the suburbs of Constantinople, and held frequent churches in private houses, where he read his own writings. He induced many to embrace his sentiments, so that the sectarians, who were named after him, became very numerous. He died not long after his banishment, and was interred at Dacora, his birthplace, a village of Cappadocia, situated near Mount Argeus, in the territory of Cæsarea. Theophronius, who was also a native of Cappadocia, and who had been his disciple, continued to promulgate his doctrines. Having gotten a smattering, through the writings of Aristotle, he composed an introduction to the study of the syllogisms in them, which he entitled
Exercises for the Mind. But he afterwards engaged, I have understood, in many unprofitable disputations, and soon ceased to confine himself to the doctrines of his master. But being eager for new things, he endeavored to prove, from the terms which are placed in the Sacred Scriptures, that though God foreknows that which is not, and knows that which is, and remembers what has happened, he does not always have that knowledge in the same manner with respect to the future and present, and changes his knowledge of the past. As this hypothesis appeared positively absurd to the Eunomians, they excommunicated him from their church; and he constituted himself the leader of a new sect, called, after his name, Theophronians. Not long after, Eutychus, one of the Eunomians, originated another sect in Constantinople, to which his own name was given. For the question had been proposed, as to whether the Son of God is or is not acquainted with the last hour; and for its solution, the words of the evangelist were quoted, in which it is stated that the day and hour are known only to the Father. Matthew 24:36 Eutychus, however, contended that this knowledge belongs also to the Son, inasmuch as He has received all things from the Father. The Eunomian presidents, having condemned this opinion, he seceded from communion with them, and went to join Eunomius in his place of banishment. A deacon, and some other individuals, who had been dispatched from Constantinople to accuse Eutychus, and, if necessary, to oppose him in argument, arrived first at the place of destination. When Eunomius was made acquainted with the object of their journey, he expressed himself in favor of the sentiments propounded by Eutychus; and, on his arrival, prayed with him, although it was not lawful to pray with any one who travels unprovided with letters written in sacred characters, attesting his being in communion. Eunomius died soon after this contention; and the Eunomian president, at Constantinople, refused to receive Eutychus into communion; for he antagonized him from jealousy because he was not even of clerical rank, and because he could not answer his arguments, and did not find it possible to solve his problems. Eutychus, therefore, separated those who had espoused his sentiments into a personal heresy. Many assert that he and Theophronius were the first who propounded the peculiar views entertained by the Eunomians concerning divine baptism. The above is a brief account of such details as I have been able to give in order to afford a succinct knowledge of the causes which led the Eunomians to be divided among themselves. I should be prolix were I to enter into further particulars; and, indeed, the subject would be by no means an easy one to me, since I have no such dialectic skill.
The following question was, in the meantime, agitated among the Arians of Constantinople: Prior to the existence of the Son (whom they regard as having proceeded out of nothing), is God to be termed the Father? Dorotheus, who had been summoned from Antioch to rule over them in the place of Marinus, was of opinion that God could not have been called the Father prior to the existence of the Son, because the name of Father has a necessary connection with that of Son. Marinus, on the other hand, maintained that the Father was the Father, even when the Son existed not; and he advanced this opinion either from conviction, or else from the desire of contention, and from jealousy at the preference that had been shown to Dorotheus in the Church. The Arians were thus divided into two parties; Dorotheus and his followers retained possession of the houses of prayer, while Marinus, and those who seceded with him, erected new edifices in which to hold their own churches. The name
Goths were given to the partisans of Marinus; Psathyrians, because Theoctistus, a certain cake-vender (ψαθυροπώλης) was a zealous advocate of their opinions; and Goths, because their sentiments were approved by Selinus, bishop of that nation. Almost all these barbarians followed the instructions of Selinus, and they gathered in churches with the followers of Marinus. The Goths were drawn to Selinus particularly because he had formerly been the secretary of Ulphilas, and had succeeded him as bishop. He was capable of teaching in their churches, not only in the vernacular, but also in the Greek language.
Soon after a contest for precedency arose between Marinus and Agapius, whom Marinus himself had ordained bishop over the Arians at Ephesus; and in the quarrel which ensued, the Goths took the part of Agapius. It is said that many of the Arian clergy of that city were so much irritated through the ambition displayed by these two bishops, that they communed with the Catholic Church. Such was the origin of the division of the Arians into two factions,— a division which still subsists; so that, in every city, they have separate churches. The Arians at Constantinople, however, after a separation of thirty-five years, were reconciled to each other by Plinthas, formerly a consul, general of the cavalry and infantry, a man possessed of great influence at court. To prevent the revival of the former dissensions among them, the question which had been the cause of the division was forbidden to be mooted. And these occurrences took place later.
A division arose during the same reign among the Novatians concerning the celebration of the festival of Easter, and from this dispute originated another, called the Sabbatian. Sabbatius, who, with Theoctistus and Macarius, had been ordained presbyter by Marcian, adopted the opinion of the co-presbyters, who had been convened at Pazoucoma during the reign of Valens, and maintained that the feast of the Passover (Easter) ought to be celebrated by Christians as by Jews. He seceded from the Church at first for the purpose of exercising greater austerity, for he professed to adopt a very austere mode of life. He also declared that one motive of his secession was, that many persons who participated in the mysteries appeared to him to be unworthy of the honor. When, however, his design of introducing innovations was detected, Marcian expressed his regret at having ordained him, and, it is said, was often heard to exclaim that he would rather have laid his hands upon thorns than upon the head of Sabbatius. Perceiving that the people of his diocese were being rent into two factions, Marcian summoned all the bishops of his own persuasion to Sangarus, a town of Bithynia, near the seashore, not far from the city of Helenopolis. When they had assembled, they summoned Sabbatius, and asked him to state the cause of his grievance; and as he merely complained of the diversity prevailing in regard to the feast, they suspected that he made this a pretext to disguise his love of precedency, and made him declare upon oath that he would never accept the episcopal office. When he had taken the required oath, all were of the same opinion, and they voted to hold the church together, for the difference prevailing in the celebration of the Paschal feast ought by no means to be made an occasion for separation from communion; and they decided that each individual should be at liberty to observe the feast according to his own judgment. They enacted a canon on the subject, which they styled the
Indifferent (ἁ διάφορος) Canon. Such were the transactions of the assembly at Sangarus. From that period Sabbatius adhered to the usage of the Jews; and unless all happened to observe the feast at the same time, he fasted, according to the custom, but in advance, and celebrated the Passover with the usual prescriptions by himself. He passed the Saturday, from the evening to the appointed time, in watching and in offering up the prescribed prayers; and on the following day he assembled with the multitude, and partook of the mysteries. This mode of observing the feast was at first unnoticed by the people but as, in process of time, it began to attract observation, and to become more generally known, he found a great many imitators, particularly in Phrygia and Galatia, to whom this celebration of the feast became a national custom. Eventually he openly seceded from communion, and became the bishop of those who had espoused his sentiments, as we shall have occasion to show in the proper place.
I am, for my own part, astonished that Sabbatius and his followers attempted to introduce this innovation. The ancient Hebrews, as is related by Eusebius, on the testimony of Philo, Josephus, Aristobulus, and several others, offered the sacrifices after the vernal equinox, when the sun is in the first sign of the zodiac, called by the Greeks the Ram, and when the moon is in the opposite quarter of the heavens, and in the fourteenth day of her age. Even the Novatians themselves, who have studied the subject with some accuracy, declare that the founder of their heresy and his first disciples did not follow this custom, which was introduced for the first time by those who assembled at Pazoucoma; and that at old Rome the members of this sect still observe the same practice as the Romans, who have not deviated from their original usage in this particular, the custom having been handed down to them by the holy apostles Peter and Paul. Further, the Samaritans, who are scrupulous observers of the laws of Moses, never celebrate this festival till the first-fruits have reached maturity; they say it is, in the law, called the Feast of First-Fruits, and before these appear, it is not lawful to observe the feast; and, therefore, necessarily the vernal equinox must precede. Hence arises my astonishment that those who profess to adopt the Jewish custom in the celebration of this feast, do not conform to the ancient practice of the Jews. With the exception of the people above mentioned, and the Quartodecimani of Asia, all heresies, I believe, celebrate the Passover in the same manner as the Romans and the Egyptians. The Quartodecimani are so called because they observe this festival, like the Jews, on the fourteenth day of the moon, and hence their name. The Novatians observe the day of the resurrection. They follow the custom of the Jews and the Quartodecimani, except when the fourteenth day of the moon falls upon the first day of the week, in which case they celebrate the feast so many days after the Jews, as there are intervening days between the fourteenth day of the moon and the following Lord's day. The Montanists, who are called Pepuzites and Phrygians, celebrate the Passover according to a strange fashion which they introduced. They blame those who regulate the time of observing the feast according to the course of the moon, and affirm that it is right to attend exclusively to the cycles of the sun. They reckon each month to consist of thirty days, and account the day after the vernal equinox as the first day of the year, which, according to the Roman method of computation, would be called the ninth day before the calends of April. It was on this day, they say, that the two great luminaries appointed for the indication of times and of years were created. This they prove by the fact that every eight years the sun and the moon meet together in the same point of the heavens. The moon's cycle of eight years is accomplished in ninety-nine months, and in two thousand nine hundred and twenty-two days; and during that time there are eight revolutions made by the sun, each comprising three hundred and sixty-five days, and the fourth part of a day. For they compute the day of the creation of the sun, mentioned in Sacred Writ, to have been the fourteenth day of the moon, occurring after the ninth day before the calends of the month of April, and answering to the eighth day prior to ides of the same month. They always celebrate the Passover on this day, when it falls on the day of the resurrection; otherwise they celebrate it on the following Lord's day; for it is written according to their assertion that the feast may be held on any day between the fourteenth and twenty-first.
We have now described the various usages that prevailed in the celebration of the Passover. It appears to me that Victor, bishop of Rome, and Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, came to a very wise decision on the controversy that had arisen between them. For as the bishops of the West did not deem it necessary to dishonor the tradition handed down to them by Peter and by Paul, and as, on the other hand, the Asiatic bishops persisted in following the rules laid down by John the evangelist, they unanimously agreed to continue in the observance of the festival according to their respective customs, without separation from communion with each other. They faithfully and justly assumed, that those who accorded in the essentials of worship ought not to separate from one another on account of customs. For exactly similar traditions on every point are to be found in all the churches, even though they hold the same opinions. There are, for instance, many cities in Scythia, and yet they all have but one bishop; whereas, in other nations a bishop serves as priest even over a village, as I have myself observed in Arabia, and in Cyprus, and among the Novatians and Montanists of Phrygia. Again, there are even now but seven deacons at Rome, answering precisely to the number ordained by the apostles, of whom Stephen was the first martyr; whereas, in other churches, the number of deacons is a matter of indifference. At Rome hallelujah is sung once annually, namely, on the first day of the festival of the Passover; so that it is a common thing among the Romans to swear by the fact of hearing or singing this hymn. In that city the people are not taught by the bishop, nor by any one in the Church. At Alexandria the bishop of the city alone teaches the people, and it is said that this custom has prevailed there ever since the days of Arius, who, though but a presbyter, broached a new doctrine. Another strange custom also prevails at Alexandria which I have never witnessed nor heard of elsewhere, and this is, that when the Gospel is read the bishop does not rise from his seat. The archdeacon alone reads the Gospel in this city, whereas in some places it is read by the deacons, and in many churches only by the priests; while on noted days it is read by the bishops, as, for instance, at Constantinople, on the first day of the festival of the resurrection. In some churches the interval called Quadragesima, which occurs before this festival, and is devoted by the people to fasting, is made to consist of six weeks; and this is the case in Illyria and the Western regions, in Libya, throughout Egypt, and in Palestine; whereas it is made to comprise seven weeks at Constantinople, and in the neighboring provinces as far as Phœnicia. In some churches the people fast three alternate weeks, during the space of six or seven weeks, whereas in others they fast continuously during the three weeks immediately preceding the festival. Some people, as the Montanists, only fast two weeks. Assemblies are not held in all churches on the same time or manner. The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria. There are several cities and villages in Egypt where, contrary to the usage established elsewhere, the people meet together on Sabbath evenings, and, although they have dined previously, partake of the mysteries. The same prayers and psalms are not recited nor the same lections read on the same occasions in all churches. Thus the book entitled
The Apocalypse of Peter, which was considered altogether spurious by the ancients, is still read in some of the churches of Palestine, on the day of preparation, when the people observe a fast in memory of the passion of the Saviour. So the work entitled
The Apocalypse of the Apostle Paul, though unrecognized by the ancients, is still esteemed by most of the monks. Some persons affirm that the book was found during this reign, by Divine revelation, in a marble box, buried beneath the soil in the house of Paul at Tarsus in Cilicia. I have been informed that this report is false by Cilix, a presbyter of the church in Tarsus, a man of very advanced age, as is indicated by his gray hairs, who says that no such occurrence is known among them, and wonders if the heretics did not invent the story. What I have said upon this subject must now suffice. Many other customs are still to be observed in cities and villages; and those who have been brought up in their observance would, from respect to the great men who instituted and perpetuated these customs, consider it wrong to abolish them. Similar motives must be attributed to those who observe different practices in the celebration of the feast which has led us into this long digression.
While the heretics were disrupted among themselves, the Catholic Church increased more and more by many accessions from the heterodox, on account of the dissensions among them and especially from multitudes of pagans. The emperor having observed that the practice of idolatry had been greatly promoted by the facility of constant ingress and egress to and from the temple, directed the entrances of all temples to be closed; and eventually he commanded the demolition of many of these edifices. When the pagans found themselves deprived of their own houses of prayer, they began to frequent our churches; for they did not dare to offer sacrifices after the pagan form in secret, for it was dangerous, since the sacrifice was under the penalty of death and of confiscation of property.
It is said that the river of Egypt did not overflow its banks this year at the proper season; and that the Egyptians angrily ascribed this circumstance to the prohibition of sacrifices to it, according to the ancestral law. The governor of the province, apprehensive lest the general discontent should terminate in sedition, sent a message to the emperor on the subject. But the emperor, far from attaching more importance to the temporary fertility produced by the Nile, than to the fidelity he owed to God and the interests of religion, replied as follows:
Let that river cease to flow, if enchantments are requisite to insure the regularity of its course; or if it delights in sacrifices, or if blood must be mingled with the waters that derive their source from the paradise of God. Soon afterwards, the Nile overflowed its banks with such violence, that the highest eminences were submerged. When it reached the farthest limit and almost had attained the fullest measure, the water did not the less press upward, so that the Egyptians were thrown into the contrary fear. The dread was lest the city of Alexandria and part of Libya should be submerged. The pagans of Alexandria, irritated at this unexpected occurrence, exclaimed in derision at the public theatres, that the river, like an old man or fool, could not moderate its proceedings. Many of the Egyptians were hence induced to abandon the superstitions of their forefathers, and embrace Christianity. These incidents are given as I have learned them.
About this time the head of John the Baptist, which Herodias had asked of Herod the tetrarch, was removed to Constantinople. It is said that it was discovered by some monks of the Macedonian heresy, who originally dwelt at Constantinople, and afterwards fixed their abode in Cilicia. Mardonius, the first eunuch of the palace, made known this discovery at court, during the preceding reign; and Valens commanded that the relic should be removed to Constantinople. The officers appointed to carry it there, placed it in a public chariot, and proceeded with it as far as Pantichium, a district in the territory of Chalcedon. Here the mules of the chariot suddenly stopped; and neither the application of the lash, nor the threats of the hostlers, could induce them to advance further. So extraordinary an event was considered by all, and even by the emperor himself, to be of God; and the holy head was therefore deposited at Cosilaos, a village in the neighborhood, which belonged to Mardonius. Soon after, the Emperor Theodosius, impelled by an impulse from God, or from the prophet, repaired to the village. He determined upon removing the remains of the Baptist, and it is said met with no opposition, except from a holy virgin, Matrona, who had been the servant and guardian of the relic. He laid aside all authority and force, and after many entreaties, extorted a reluctant consent from her to remove the head; for she bore in mind what had occurred at the period when Valens commanded its removal. The emperor placed it, with the box in which it was encased, in his purple robe, and conveyed it to a place called Hebdomos, in the suburbs of Constantinople, where he erected a spacious and magnificent temple. The woman who had been appointed to the charge of the relic could not be persuaded by the emperor to renounce her religious sentiments, although he had recourse to entreaty and promises; for she was, it appears, of the Macedonian heresy. A presbyter of the same tendency, named Vincent, who also took charge of the coffin of the prophet, and performed the sacerdotal functions over it, followed the religious opinions of the emperor, and entered into communion with the Catholic Church. He had taken an oath, as the Macedonians affirm, never to swerve from their doctrines; but he afterwards openly declared that, if the Baptist would follow the emperor, he also would enter into communion with him and be separated. He was a Persian, and had left his country in company with a relative named Addas, during the reign of Constantius, in order to avoid the persecution which the Christians were then suffering in Persia. On his arrival in the Roman territories, he was placed in the ranks of the clergy, and advanced to the office of presbyter. Addas married and rendered great service to the Church. He left a son named Auxentius, who was noted for his very faithful piety, his zeal for his friends, the moderation of his life, his love of letters, and the greatness of his attainments in pagan and ecclesiastical literature. He was modest and retiring in deportment, although admitted to familiarity with the emperor and the courtiers, and possessed of a very illustrious appointment. His memory is still revered by the monks and zealous men, who were all acquainted with him. The woman who had been entrusted with the relic remained during the rest of her life at Cosilaos. She was greatly distinguished by her piety and wisdom, and instructed many holy virgins; and I have been assured that many still survive who reflect the honorable character which was the result of training under Matrona.
While Theodosius was thus occupied in the wise and peaceful government of his subjects in the East, and in the service of God, intelligence was brought that Valentinian had been strangled. Some say that he was put to death by the eunuchs of the bedchamber, at the solicitation of Arbogastes, a military chief, and of certain courtiers, who were displeased because the young prince had begun to walk in the footsteps of his father, concerning the government, and contrary to the opinions approved by them. Others assert, however, that Valentinian committed the fatal deed with his own hands, because he found himself impeded in attempting deeds which are not lawful in one of his years; and on this account he did not deem it worth while to live; for although an emperor, he was not allowed to do what he wished. It is said that the boy was noble in person, and excellent in royal manners; and that, had he lived to the age of manhood, he would have shown himself worthy of holding the reins of empire, and would have surpassed his father in magnanimity and justice. But though endowed with these promising qualities, he died in the manner above related.
A certain man named Eugenius, who was by no means sincere in his professions of Christianity, aspired to sovereignty, and assumed the symbols of imperial power. He was hoping to succeed in the attempt safely; for he was led by the predictions of individuals who professed to foresee the future, by the examination of the entrails and livers of animals and the course of the stars. Men of the highest rank among the Romans were addicted to these superstitions. Flavian, then a prætorian prefect, a learned man, and one who appeared to have an aptitude for politics, was noted for being conversant with every means of foretelling the future. He persuaded Eugenius to take up arms by assuring him that he was destined for the throne, that his warlike undertakings would be crowned with victory, and that the Christian religion would be abolished. Deceived by these flattering representations, Eugenius raised an army and took possession of the gates into Italy, as the Romans call the Julian Alps, an elevated and precipitous range of mountains; these he seized beforehand and fortified, for they had but one path in the narrows, and were shut in on each side by precipices and the loftiest mountains. Theodosius was perplexed as to whether he ought to await the issue of the war, or whether it would be better in the first place to attack Eugenius; and in this dilemma, he determined to consult John, a monk of Thebaïs, who, as I have before stated, was celebrated for his knowledge of the future. He therefore sent Eutropius, a eunuch of the palace, and of tried fidelity, to Egypt, with orders to bring John, if possible, to court; but, in case of his refusal, to learn what ought to be done. When he came to John, the monk could not be persuaded to go to the emperor, but he sent word by Eutropius that the war would terminate in favor of Theodosius, and that the tyrant would be slain; but that, after the victory, Theodosius himself would die in Italy. The truth of both of these predictions was confirmed by events.
In this time, on account of the necessities of war, it seemed best to the officials whose concern it was, to impose more than the customary taxes; for this reason the populace of Antioch in Syria revolted; the statues of the emperor and empress were thrown down and dragged by ropes through the city, and, as is usual on such occasions, the enraged multitude uttered every insulting epithet that passion could suggest. The emperor determined to avenge this insult by the death of many of the citizens of Antioch; the people were struck dumb at the mere announcement; the rage of the citizens had subsided, and had given place to repentance; and, as if already subjected to the threatened punishment, they abandoned themselves to groans and tears, and supplicated God to turn away the anger of the emperor, and made use of some threnodic hymns for their litanies. They deputed Flavian, their bishop, to go on an embassy to Theodosius; but on his arrival, finding that the resentment of the emperor at what had occurred was unabated, he had recourse to the following artifice. He caused some young men accustomed to sing at the table of the emperor to utter these hymns with the litanies of the Antiochans. It is said that the humanity of the emperor was excited; he was overcome by pity at once; his wrath was subdued, and as his heart yearned over the city, he shed tears on the cup which he held in his hand. It is reported that, on the night before the sedition occurred, a spectre was seen in the form of a woman of prodigious height and terrible aspect, pacing through the streets of the city, lashing the air with an ill-sounding whip, similar to that which is used in goading on the beasts brought forward at the public theatres. It might have been inferred that the sedition was excited by the agency of some evil and malicious demon. There is no doubt but that much bloodshed would have ensued, had not the wrath of the emperor been stayed by his respect for this sacerdotal entreaty.
When he had completed his preparations for war, Theodosius declared his younger son Honorius emperor, and leaving him to reign at Constantinople conjointly with Arcadius, who had previously been appointed emperor, he departed from the East to the West at the head of his troops. His army consisted not only of Roman soldiers, but of bands of barbarians from the banks of the Ister. It is said that when he left Constantinople, he came to the seventh milestone, and went to pray to God in the church which he had erected in honor of John the Baptist; and in his name prayed that success might attend the Roman arms, and besought the Baptist himself to aid him. After offering up these prayers he proceeded towards Italy, crossed the Alps, and took the first guard-posts. On descending from the heights of these mountains, he perceived a plain before him covered with infantry and cavalry, and became at the same time aware that some of the enemy's troops were lying in ambush behind him, among the recesses of the mountains. The advance guard of his army attacked the infantry stationed in the plain, and a desperate and very doubtful conflict ensued. Further, when the army surrounded him, he considered that he had come into the power of men, and could not be saved even by those who would desire to do so, since those who had been posted in his rear were seizing the heights; he fell prone upon the earth, and prayed with tears, and God instantly answered him; for the officers of the troops stationed in ambush on the height sent to offer him their services as his allies, provided that he would assign them honorable posts in his army. As he had neither paper nor ink within reach, he took up some tablets, and wrote on them the high and befitting appointments he would confer upon them, provided that they would fulfill their promise to him. Under these conditions they advanced to the emperor. The issue did not yet incline to either side, but the battle was still evenly balanced in the plain, when a tremendous wind descended into the face of the enemy. It was such an one as we have never before recorded, and broke up the ranks of the enemies. The arrows and darts which were sent against the Romans, as if projected by the opposing ranks, were turned upon the bodies of those who had cast them; and their shields were wrenched from their hands, and whirled against them with filth and dust. Standing thus exposed, in a defenseless condition, to the weapons of the Romans, many of them perished, while the few who attempted to effect an escape were soon captured. Eugenius threw himself at the feet of the emperor, and implored him to spare his life; but while in the act of offering up these entreaties, a soldier struck off his head. Arbogastes fled after the battle, and fell by his own hands. It is said that while the battle was being fought, a demoniac presented himself in the temple of God which is in the Hebdomos, where the emperor had engaged in prayer on starting out, and insulted John the Baptist, taunting him with having his head cut off, and shouted the following words:
You conquer me, and lay snares for my army. The persons who happened to be on the spot, and who were waiting impatiently to learn some news of the war, were amazed, and wrote an account of it on the day that it occurred, and afterwards ascertained that it was the same day as that on which the battle had been fought. Such is the history of these transactions.
After the death of Eugenius, the emperor went to Milan, and repaired towards the church to pray within its walls. When he drew near the gates of the edifice, he was met by Ambrose, the bishop of the city, who took hold of him by his purple robe, and said to him, in the presence of the multitude,
Stand back! A man defiled by sin, and with hands imbrued in blood unjustly shed, is not worthy, without repentance, to enter within these sacred precincts, or partake of the holy mysteries. The emperor, struck with admiration at the boldness of the bishop, began to reflect on his own conduct, and, with much contrition, retraced his steps. The occasion of the sin was as follows. When Buthericus was general of the troops in Illyria, a charioteer saw him shamefully exposed at a tavern, and attempted an outrage; he was apprehended and put in custody. Some time after, some magnificent races were to be held at the hippodrome, and the populace of Thessalonica demanded the release of the prisoner, considering him necessary to the celebration of the contest. As their request was not attended to, they rose up in sedition and finally slew Buthericus. On hearing of this deed, the wrath of the emperor was excited immediately, and he commanded that a certain number of the citizens should be put to death. The city was filled with the blood of many unjustly shed; for strangers, who had but just arrived there on their journey to other lands, were sacrificed with the others. There were many cases of suffering well worthy of commiseration, of which the following is an instance. A merchant offered himself to be slain as a substitute for his two sons who had both been selected as victims, and promised the soldiers to give them all the gold he possessed, on condition of their effecting the exchange. They could not but compassionate his misfortune, and consented to take him as a substitute for one of his sons, but declared that they did not dare to let off both the young men, as that would render the appointed number of the slain incomplete. The father gazed on his sons, groaning and weeping; he could not save either from death, but he continued hesitating until they had been put to death, being overcome by an equal love for each. I have also been informed, that a faithful slave voluntarily offered to die instead of his master, who was being led to the place of execution. It appears that it was for these and other acts of cruelty that Ambrose rebuked the emperor, forbade him to enter the church, and excommunicated him. Theodosius publicly confessed his sin in the church, and during the time set apart for penance, refrained from wearing his imperial ornaments, according to the usage of mourners. He also enacted a law prohibiting the officers entrusted with the execution of the imperial mandates, from inflicting the punishment of death till thirty days after the mandate had been issued, in order that the wrath of the emperor might have time to be appeased, and that room might be made for the exercise of mercy and repentance.
Ambrose, no doubt, performed many other actions worthy of his priestly office, which are known, as is likely, only to the inhabitants of the country. Among the illustrious deeds that are attributed to him, I have been made acquainted with the following. It was the custom of the emperor to take a seat in assemblies of the church within the palisades of the altar, so that he sat apart from the rest of the people. Ambrose, considering that this custom had originated either from subserviency or from want of discipline, caused the emperor to be seated without the trellis work of the altar, so that he sat in front of the people, and behind the priests. The emperor Theodosius approved of this best tradition, as did likewise his successors; and we are told that it has been ever since scrupulously observed.
I think it necessary to make a record of another action worthy of mention performed by this bishop. A pagan of distinction insulted Gratian, affirming that he was unworthy of his father; and he was in consequence condemned to death. As he was being led out to execution, Ambrose went to the palace to implore a pardon. Gratian was then engaged in witnessing a private exhibition of the hunt, such as the emperors were wont to celebrate for their private pleasure, and not for the public pastime. On finding this to be the case, the bishop went to the gate where they led in the beasts; he hid himself, and entered with the hunters who took charge of the animals, and did not intermit, although Gratian and his attendants resisted, till he had obtained an immediate and saving consent of the emperor, which released the man who was to be led out to death. Ambrose was very diligent in the observance of the laws of the Church, and in maintaining discipline among his clergy. I have selected the above two incidents from among the records of his numerous magnanimous deeds, in order to show with what intrepidity he addressed those in power when the service of God was in question.
There were at this period many other bishops in various parts of the empire highly celebrated for their sanctity and high qualifications, of whom Donatus, bishop of Eurœa in Epirus, deserves to be particularly instanced. The inhabitants of the country relate many extraordinary miracles which he performed, of which the most celebrated seems to have been the destruction of a dragon of enormous size. It had stationed itself on the high road, at a place called Chamægephyræ and devoured sheep, goats, oxen, horses, and men. Donatus came upon this beast, attacked it unarmed, without sword, lance, or javelin; it raised its head, and was about to dash upon him, when Donatus made the sign of the cross with his finger in the air, and spat upon the dragon. The saliva entered its mouth, and it immediately expired. As it lay extended on the earth it did not appear inferior in size to the noted serpents of India. I have been informed that the people of the country yoked eight pair of oxen to transport the body to a neighboring field, where they burnt it, that it might not during the process of decomposition corrupt the air and generate disease. The tomb of this bishop is deposited in a magnificent house of prayer which bears his name. It is situated near a fountain of many waters, which God caused to rise from the ground in answer to his prayer, in an arid spot where no water had previously existed. For it is said that one day, when on a journey, he had to pass through this locality; and, perceiving that his companions were suffering from thirst, he moved the soil with his hands and engaged in prayer; before his prayer was concluded, a spring of water arose from the ground, which has never since been dried up. The inhabitants of Isoria, a village in the territory of Eurœa, bear testimony to the truth of this narration.
The church of Tomi, and indeed all the churches of Scythia, were at this period under the government of Theotimus, a Scythian. He had been brought up in the practice of philosophy; and his virtues had so won the admiration of the barbarian Huns, who dwelt on the banks of the Ister, that they called him the god of the Romans, for they had experience of divine deeds wrought by him. It is said that one day, when traveling toward the country of the barbarians, he perceived some of them advancing towards Tomi. His attendants burst forth into lamentations, and gave themselves up at once for lost; but he merely descended from horseback, and prayed. The consequence was, that the barbarians passed by without seeing him, his attendants, or the horses from which they had dismounted. As these tribes frequently devastated Scythia by their predatory incursions, he tried to subdue the ferocity of their disposition by presenting them with food and gifts. One of the barbarians hence concluded that he was a man of wealth, and, determining to take him prisoner, leaned upon his shield, as was his custom when parleying with his enemies; the man raised up his right hand in order to throw a rope, which he firmly grasped, over the bishop, for he intended to drag him away to his own country; but in the attempt, his hand remained extended in the air, and the barbarian was not released from his terrible bonds until his companions had implored Theotimus to intercede with God in his behalf.
It is said that Theotimus always retained the long hair which he wore when he first devoted himself to the practice of philosophy. He was very temperate, had no stated hours for his repasts, but ate and drank when compelled to do so by the calls of hunger and of thirst. I consider it to be the part of a philosopher to yield to the demands of these appetites from necessity, and not from the love of sensual gratification.
Epiphanius was at this period at the head of the metropolitan church of Cyprus. He was celebrated, not only for the virtues he manifested and miraculous deeds during his life, but also for the honor that was rendered to him by God after his death; for it was said that demons were expelled, and diseases healed at his tomb. Many wonderful actions wrought while he lived are attributed to him, of which the following is one of the most remarkable that has come to our knowledge. He was extremely liberal towards the needy, either to those who had suffered from shipwreck or any other calamity; and after expending the whole of his own patrimony in the relief of such cases, he applied the treasures of the church to the same purpose. These treasures had been greatly increased by the donations of pious men of various provinces, who had been induced by their admiration of Epiphanius to entrust him with the distribution of their alms during their lives, or to bequeath their property to him for this purpose at their death. It is said that on one occasion the treasurer, who was a godly man, discovered that the revenues of the church had been nearly drained, and so little remained in the treasury that he considered it his duty to rebuke the bishop as a spendthrift. Epiphanius, however, having, notwithstanding these remonstrances, given away the small sum that had remained, a stranger went to the little house where the treasurer lived, and placed in his hands a bag containing many gold coins. Since neither the giver nor the sender was visible, it seemed very naturally miraculous, that in a gift of so much money a man should keep himself unknown; thus everybody thought it to be a Divine work.
I desire also to relate another miracle that is attributed to Epiphanius. I have heard that a similar action has been related of Gregory, who formerly governed Neocæsarea; and I see no reason to doubt the veracity of the account; but it does not disprove the authenticity of the miracle attributed to Epiphanius. Peter, the apostle, was not the only man who raised another from the dead; John, the evangelist, wrought a similar miracle at Ephesus; as did likewise the daughters of Philip at Hierapolis. Similar actions have been performed in different ages by the men of God. The miracle which I wish to instance is the following. Two beggars having ascertained when Epiphanius would pass that way, agreed to extract a larger donation than usual from him by having recourse to stratagem. As soon as the bishop was seen approaching, one of the beggars flung himself on the ground and simulated death; the other stood by and uttered loud lamentations, deploring the loss of his companion, and his own poverty, which made him unable to procure sepulture for him. Epiphanius prayed to God that the deceased might rise in peace; he gave the survivor sufficient money for the interment, and said to the weeper,
Take measures, my son, for the burial of your companion, and weep no more; he cannot now arise from the dead; the calamity was inevitable, therefore you ought to bear it with resignation. Saying these words, the bishop departed from the spot. As soon as there was no one in sight, the beggar who had addressed Epiphanius touched the other with his foot, as he lay extended on the ground, and said to him,
You have well performed your part; arise now, for through your labor, we have a good provision for today. He, however, lay in the same way, neither heard any cry, nor perceived him who moved him with all his strength; the other beggar ran after the priest and confessed their artifice, and, with lamentations and tearing of his hair, he besought Epiphanius to restore his companion. Epiphanius merely exhorted him to submit with patience to the catastrophe, and sent him away. God did not undo what had happened, because, I feel persuaded, it was his design to show that those who practice deception on his servants are accounted as guilty of the fraud as if it had been perpetrated against Him who sees all, and who hears all.
The following details are also the results of inquiry. Acacius was conspicuous among the bishops; he had already previously administered the episcopate of Berœa in Syria. There are of course many actions of his, which are worthy of record. He was from his youth brought up to the profession of ascetic monasticism, and was rigid in observing all the regulations of this mode of life. When he was raised to the bishopric, he gave this evidence of greatest virtue, in that he kept the episcopal residence open at all hours of the day, so that the citizens and strangers were always free to visit him, even when he was at meals or at repose. This course of conduct is, in my opinion, very admirable; for either he was living in such a way as to be always sure of himself, or he devised this as a means of preparation against the evil in one's nature, so that in expecting to be caught by the sudden entrance of persons, it would be necessary for him to be on continuous guard, not to err in his duties, but rather to be engaged in covenanted acts.
Zeno and Ajax, two celebrated brothers, flourished about the same period. They devoted themselves to a life of philosophy, but did not fix their abode as hermits in the desert, but at Gaza, a maritime city, which was also called Majuma. They both defended the truth of their religion with greatest fidelity, and confessed God with courage, so that they were frequently subjected to very cruel and harsh treatment by the pagans. It is said that Ajax married a very lovely woman, and after he had known her thrice in all that time, had three sons; and that subsequently he held no further intercourse with her, but persevered in the exercises of monasticism. He brought up two of his sons to the divine life and celibacy, and the third he permitted to marry. He governed the church of Botolium with propriety and distinction.
Zeno, who had from his youth renounced the world and marriage, persevered in steadfast adherence to the service of God. It is said, and I myself am witness of the truth of the assertion, that when he was bishop of the church in Majuma, he was never absent at morning or evening hymns, or any other worship of God, unless attacked by some malady; and yet he was at this period an old man, being nearly a hundred years of age. He continued his course of life in the monastic philosophy, but, by pursuing his trade of weaving linen, continued to earn the means of supplying his own wants and of providing for others. He never deviated from this course of conduct till the close of his life, although he exceeded all the other priests of that province in age; and although he presided over the people and property of the largest church.
I have mentioned these as examples of those who served as priests at this period. It would be a task to enumerate all where the main part of them were good, and God bore testimony to their lives by readily hearing their prayers and by working many miracles.
While the Church everywhere was under the sway of these eminent men, the clergy and people were excited to the imitation of their virtue and zeal. Nor was the Church of this era distinguished only by these illustrious examples of piety; for the relics of the proto-prophets, Habakkuk, and a little while after, Micah, were brought to light about this time. As I understand, God made known the place where both these bodies were deposited by a divine vision in a dream to Zebennus, who was then acting as bishop of the church of Eleutheropolis. The relics of Habakkuk were found at Cela, a city formerly called Ceila. The tomb of Micah was discovered at a distance of ten stadia from Cela, at a place called Berathsatia. This tomb was ignorantly styled by the people of the country,
the tomb of the faithful; or, in their native language, Nephsameemana. These events, which occurred during the reign of Theodosius, were sufficient for the good repute of the Christian religion.
After conquering Eugenius, Theodosius the emperor remained for some time at Milan, and here he was attacked with a serious malady. He recalled to mind the prediction of the monk, John, and conjectured that his sickness was unto death. He sent in haste for his son Honorius from Constantinople; and on seeing him by, he seemed to be easier, so that he was able to be present at the sports of the Hippodrome. After dinner, however, he suddenly grew worse, and sent to desire his son to preside at the spectacle. He died on the following night. This event happened during the consulate of the brothers Olybrius and Probianus.
Source. Translated by Chester D. Hartranft. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 2. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/26027.htm>.
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