The divine Athanasius returned to Alexandria, after having remained two years and four months at Treves. Constantine, the eldest son of Constantine the Great, whose imperial sway extended over Western Gaul, wrote the following letter to the church of Alexandria.
Epistle of the Emperor Constantine, the son of Constantine the Great, to the Alexandrians.
I think that it cannot have escaped your pious intelligence that Athanasius, the interpreter of the venerated law, was opportunely sent into Gaul, in order that, so long as the savagery of these bloodthirsty opponents was threatening peril to his sacred head, he might be saved from suffering irremediable wrongs. To avoid this imminent peril, he was snatched from the jaws of his foes, to remain in a city under my jurisdiction, where he might be abundantly supplied with every necessary. Yet the greatness of his virtue, relying on the grace of God, led him to despise all the calamities of adverse fortune. Constantine, my lord and my father, of blessed memory, intended to have reinstated him in his former bishopric, and to have restored him to your piety; but as the emperor was arrested by the hand of death before his desires were accomplished, I, being his heir, have deemed it fitting to carry into execution the purpose of this sovereign of divine memory. You will learn from your bishop himself, when you see him, with how much respect I have treated him. Nor indeed is it surprising that he should have been thus treated by me. I was moved to this line of conduct by his own great virtue, and the thought of your affectionate longing for his return. May Divine Providence watch over you, beloved brethren!
Furnished with this letter, St. Athanasius returned from exile, and was most gladly welcomed both by the rich and by the poor, by the inhabitants of cities, and by those of the provinces. The followers of the madness of Arius were the only persons who felt any vexation at his return. Eusebius, Theognis, and those of their faction resorted to their former machinations, and endeavoured to prejudice the ears of the young emperor against him.
I shall now proceed to relate in what manner Constantius swerved from the doctrines of the Apostles.
Constantia, the widow of Licinius, was the half-sister of Constantine. She was intimately acquainted with a certain priest who had imbibed the doctrines of Arius. He did not openly acknowledge his unsoundness; but, in the frequent conversations which he had with her, he did not refrain from declaring that Arius had been unjustly calumniated. After the death of her impious husband, the renowned Constantine did everything in his power to solace her, and strove to prevent her from experiencing the saddest trials of widowhood. He attended her also in her last illness , and rendered her every proper attention. She then presented the priest whom I mentioned to the emperor, and entreated him to receive him under his protection. Constantine acceded to her request, and soon after fulfilled his promise. But though the priest was permitted the utmost freedom of speech, and was most honourably treated, he did not venture to reveal his corrupt principles, for he observed the firmness with which the emperor adhered to the truth. When Constantine was on the point of being translated to an eternal kingdom, he drew up a will, in which he directed that his temporal dominions should be divided among his sons. None of them was with him when he was dying, so he entrusted the will to this priest alone, and desired him to give it to Constantius, who, being at a shorter distance from the spot than his brothers, was expected to arrive the first. These directions the priest executed, and thus by putting the will into his hands, became known to Constantius, who accepted him as an intimate friend, and commanded him to visit him frequently. Perceiving the weakness of Constantius, whose mind was like reeds driven to and fro by the wind, he became emboldened to declare war against the doctrines of the gospel. He loudly deplored the stormy state of the churches, and asserted it to be due to those who had introduced the unscriptural word
consubstantial into the confession of faith, and that all the disputes among the clergy and the laity had been occasioned by it. He calumniated Athanasius and all who coincided in his opinions, and formed designs for their destruction, being used as their fellow-worker by Eusebius , Theognis, and Theodorus, bishop of Perinthus.
These bishops resided near the emperor, and frequently visited him; they assured him that the return of Athanasius from banishment had occasioned many evils, and had excited a tempest which had shaken not only Egypt, but also Palestine, Phœnicia, and the adjacent countries.
With these and similar arguments, the bishops assailed the weak-minded emperor, and persuaded him to expel Athanasius from his church. But Athanasius obtained timely intimation of their design, and departed to the west. The friends of Eusebius had sent false accusations against him to Julius, who was then bishop of Rome. In obedience to the laws of the church, Julius summoned the accusers and the accused to Rome, that the cause might be tried. Athanasius, accordingly, set out for Rome, but the calumniators refused to go because they saw that their falsehood would easily be detected. But perceiving that the flock of Athanasius was left without a pastor, they appointed over it a wolf instead of a shepherd. Gregorius, for this was his name, surpassed the wild beasts in his deeds of cruelty towards the flock: but at the expiration of six years he was destroyed by the sheep themselves. Athanasius went to Constans (Constantine, the eldest brother, having fallen in battle), and complained of the plots laid against him by the Arians, and of their opposition to the faith. He reminded him of his father, and how he attended in person the great and famous council which he had summoned; how he was present at its debates, took part in framing its decrees, and confirmed them by law. The emperor was moved to emulation by his father's zeal, and promptly wrote to his brother, exhorting him to preserve inviolate the religion of their father, which they had inherited;
for, he urged,
by piety he made his empire great, destroyed the tyrants of Rome, and subjugated the foreign nations on every side. Constantius was led by this letter to summon the bishops from the east and from the west to Sardica , a city of Illyricum, and the metropolis of Dacia, that they might deliberate on the means of removing the other troubles of the church, which were many and pressing.
Paulus , bishop of Constantinople, who faithfully maintained orthodox doctrines, was accused by the unsound Arians of exciting seditions, and of such other crimes as they usually laid to the charge of all those who preached true piety. The people, who feared the machinations of his enemies, would not permit him to go to Sardica. The Arians, taking advantage of the weakness of the emperor, procured from him an edict of banishment against Paulus, who was, accordingly, sent to Cucusus, a little town formerly included in Cappadocia, but now in Lesser Armenia. But these disturbers of the public peace were not satisfied with having driven the admirable Paulus into a desert. They sent the agents of their cruelty to dispatch him by a violent death. St. Athanasius testifies to this fact in the defence which he wrote of his own flight. He uses the following words :
The Arians, having effected the death of Paulus, or rather having dispatched him to the kingdom of heaven, promoted Macedonius in his place, who, they imagined, held the same sentiments, and belonged to the same faction as themselves, because he, like them, blasphemed the Holy Ghost. But, shortly after, they deposed him also, because he refused to call Him a creature Whom the Holy Scriptures affirm to be the Son of God. After his separation from them, he became the leader of a sect of his own. He taught that the Son of God is not of the same substance as the Father, but that He is like Him in every particular. He also openly affirmed that the Holy Ghost is a creature. These circumstances occurred not long afterwards as we have narrated them.
Two hundred and fifty bishops assembled at Sardica , as is proved by ancient records. The great Athanasius, Asclepas, bishop of Gaza, already mentioned , and Marcellus , bishop of Ancyra, the metropolis of Galatia, who also held this bishopric at the time of the council of Nicæa, all repaired there. The calumniators, and the chiefs of the Arian faction, who had previously judged the cause of Athanasius, also attended. But when they found that the members of the synod were staunch in their adherence to sound doctrine, they would not even enter the council, although they had been summoned to it, but fled away, both accusers and judges. All these circumstances are far more clearly explained in a letter drawn up by the council; and I shall therefore now insert it.
Synodical Letter from the Bishops assembled at Sardica, addressed to the other Bishops.
The holy council assembled at Sardica, from Rome, Spain, Gaul, Italy, Campania, Calabria, Africa, Sardinia, Pannonia, Mœsia, Dacia, Dardania, Lesser Dacia, Macedonia, Thessaly, Achaia, Epirus, Thrace, Rhodope, Asia, Caria, Bithynia, the Hellespont, Phrygia, Pisidia, Cappadocia, Pontus, the lesser Phrygia, Cilicia, Pamphylia, Lydia, the Cyclades, Egypt, the Thebaid, Libya, Galatia, Palestine and Arabia, to the bishops throughout the world, our fellow-ministers in the catholic and apostolic Church, and our beloved brethren in the Lord. Peace be unto you.
The madness of the Arians has often led them to the perpetration of violent atrocities against the servants of God who keep the true faith; they introduce false doctrines themselves, and persecute those who uphold orthodox principles. So violent were their attacks on the faith, that they reached the ears of our most pious emperors. Through the co-operation of the grace of God, the emperors have summoned us from different provinces and cities to the holy council which they have appointed to be held in the city of Sardica, in order that all dissensions may be terminated, all evil doctrines expelled, and the religion of Christ alone maintained among all people. Some bishops from the east have attended the council at the solicitation of our most religious emperors, principally on account of the reports circulated against our beloved brethren and fellow-ministers, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra in Galatia, and Asclepas, bishop of Gaza. Perhaps the calumnies of the Arians have already reached you, and they have endeavoured thus to forestall the council, and make you believe their groundless accusations of the innocent, and prevent any suspicion being raised of the depraved heresy which they uphold. But they have not long been permitted so to act. The Lord is the Protector of the churches; for them and for us all He suffered death, and opened for us the way to heaven.
The adherents of Eusebius, Maris, Theodorus, Theognis, Ursacius, Valens, Menophantus, and Stephanus, had already written to Julius, the bishop of Rome, and our fellow-minister, against our aforesaid fellow-ministers, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra in Galatia, and Asclepas, bishop of Gaza. Some bishops of the opposite party wrote also to Julius, testifying to the innocence of Athanasius, and proving that all that had been asserted by the followers of Eusebius was nothing more than lies and slander. The refusal of the Arians to obey the summons of our beloved brother and fellow-ruler, Julius, and also the letter written by that bishop, clearly prove the falseness of their accusation. For, had they believed that what they had done and represented against our fellow-minister admitted of justification, they would have gone to Rome. But their mode of procedure in this great and holy council is a manifest proof of their fraud. Upon their arrival at Sardica, they perceived that our brethren, Athanasius, Marcellus, Asclepas, and others, were there also; they were therefore afraid to come to the test, although they had been summoned, not once or twice only, but repeatedly. There were they waited for by the assembled bishops, particularly by the venerable Hosius, one worthy of all honour and respect, on account of his advanced age, his adherence to the faith, and his labours for the church. All urged them to join the assembly and avail themselves of the opportunity of proving, in the presence of their fellow-ministers, the truth of the charges they had brought against them in their absence, both by word and by letter. But they refused to obey the summons, as we have already stated, and so by their excesses proved the falsity of their statements, and all but proclaimed aloud the plot and schemes they had formed. Men confident of the truth of their assertions are always ready to stand to them openly. But as these accusers would not appear to substantiate what they had advanced, any future allegations which they may by their usual artifices bring against our fellow-ministers, will only be regarded as proceeding from a desire of slandering them in their absence, without the courage to confront them openly.
They fled, beloved brethren, not only because their charges were slander, but also because they saw men arrive with serious and manifold accusations against themselves. Chains and fetters were produced. Some were present whom they had exiled: others came forward as representatives of those still kept in exile. There stood relations and friends of men whom they had put to death. Most serious of all, bishops also appeared, one of whom exhibited the irons and the chains with which they had laden him. Others testified that death followed their false charges. For their infatuation had led them so far as even to attempt the life of a bishop; and he would have been killed had he not escaped from their hands. Theodulus , our fellow-minister, of blessed memory, passed hence with their calumny on his name; for, through it, he had been condemned to death. Some showed the wounds which had been inflicted on them by the sword; others deposed that they had been exposed to the miseries of famine.
All these depositions were made, not by a few obscure individuals, but by whole churches; the presbyters of these churches giving evidence that the persecutors had armed the military against them with swords, and the common people with clubs; had employed judicial threats, and produced spurious documents. The letters written by Theognis, for the purpose of prejudicing the emperor against our fellow-ministers, Athanasius, Marcellus, and Asclepas, were read and attested by those who had formerly been the deacons of Theognis. It was also proved that they had stripped virgins naked, had burnt churches, and imprisoned our fellow-ministers, and all because of the infamous heresy of the Ariomaniacs. For thus all who refused to make common cause with them were treated.
The consciousness of having committed all these crimes placed them in great straits. Ashamed of their deeds, which could no longer be concealed, they repaired to Sardica, thinking that their boldness in venturing there would remove all suspicion of their guilt. But when they perceived the presence of those whom they had falsely accused, and of those who had suffered from their cruelty; and that likewise several had come with irrefragable accusations against them, they would not enter the council. Our fellow-ministers, on the other hand, Athanasius, Marcellus, and Asclepas, took every means to induce them to attend, by tears, by urgency, by challenge, promising not only to prove the falsity of their accusations, but also to show how deeply they had injured their own churches. But they were so overwhelmed by the consciousness of their own evil deeds, that they took to flight, and by this flight clearly proved the falsity of their accusations as well as their own guilt.
But though their calumny and perfidy, which had indeed been apparent from the beginning, were now clearly perceived, yet we determined to examine the circumstances of the case according to the laws of truth, lest they should, from their very flight, derive pretexts for renewed acts of deceitfulness.
Upon carrying this resolution into effect, we proved by their actions that they were false accusers, and that they had formed plots against our fellow-ministers. Arsenius, whom they declared had been put to death by Athanasius, is still alive, and takes his place among the living. This fact alone is sufficient to show that their other allegations are false.
Although they spread a report everywhere that a chalice had been broken by Macarius, one of the presbyters of Athanasius, yet those who came from Alexandria, from Mareotis, and from other places, testified that this was not the fact; and the bishops in Egypt wrote to Julius, our fellow-minister, declaring that there was not the least suspicion that such a deed had been done. The judicial facts which the Arians assert they possess against Macarius have been all drawn up by one party; and in these documents the depositions of pagans and of catechumens were included. One of these catechumens, when interrogated, replied that he was in the church on the entry of Macarius. Another deposed that Ischyras, whom they had talked about so much, was then lying ill in his cell. Hence it appears that the mysteries could not have been celebrated at that time, as the catechumens were present, and as Ischyras was absent; for he was at that very time confined by illness. Ischyras, that wicked man who had falsely affirmed that Athanasius had burnt some of the sacred books, and had been convicted of the crime, now confessed that he was ill in bed when Macarius arrived; hence the falsehood of his accusation was clearly demonstrated. His calumny was, however, rewarded by his party; they gave him the title of a bishop, although he was not yet even a presbyter. For two presbyters came to the synod, who some time back had been attached to Meletius, and were afterwards received back by the blessed Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and are now with Athanasius, protesting that he had never been ordained a presbyter, and that Meletius had never had any church, or employed any minister in Mareotis. Yet, although he had never been ordained a presbyter, they promote him to a bishopric, in order that his title may impose upon those who hear his false accusations.
The writings of our fellow-minister, Marcellus, were also read, and plainly evinced the duplicity of the adherents of Eusebius; for what Marcellus had simply suggested as a point of inquiry, they accused him of professing as a point of faith. The statements which he had made, both before and after the inquiry, were read, and his faith was proved to be orthodox. He did not affirm, as they represented, that the beginning of the Word of God was dated from His conception by the holy Mary, or that His kingdom would have an end. On the contrary, he wrote that His kingdom had had no beginning, and would have no end. Asclepas, our fellow-minister, produced the reports drawn up at Antioch in the presence of the accusers, and of Eusebius, bishop of Cæsarea, and proved his innocence by the sentence of the bishops who had presided as judges.
It was not then without cause, beloved brethren, that, although so frequently summoned, they would not attend the council; it was not without cause that they took to flight. The reproaches of conscience constrained them to make their escape, and thus, at the same time, to demonstrate the groundlessness of their calumnies, and the truth of those accusations which were advanced and proved against them. Besides all the other grounds of complaint, it may be added that all those who had been accused of holding the Arian heresy, and had been ejected in consequence, were not only received, but advanced to the highest dignities by them. They raised deacons to the presbyterate, and thence to the episcopate; and in all this they were actuated by no other motive than the desire of propagating and diffusing their heresy, and of corrupting the true faith.
Next to Eusebius, the following are their principal leaders; Theodorus, bishop of Heraclea, Narcissus, bishop of Neronias in Cilicia, Stephanus, bishop of Antioch, Georgius , bishop of Laodicea, Acacius , bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine, Menophantus, bishop of Ephesus in Asia, Ursacius, bishop of Singidunum in Mœsia, and Valens, bishop of Mursa in Pannonia. These bishops forbade those who came with them from the east to attend the holy council, or to unite with the Church of God. On their road to Sardica they held private assemblies at different places, and formed a compact cemented by threats, that, when they arrived in Sardica, they would not join the holy council, nor assist at its deliberations; arranging that, as soon as they had arrived they should present themselves for form's sake, and immediately betake themselves to flight. These facts were made known to us by our fellow-ministers, Macarius of Palestine , and Asterius of Arabia , who came with them to Sardica, but refused to share their unorthodoxy. These bishops complained before the holy council of the violent treatment they had received from them, and of the want of right principles evinced in all their transactions. They added that there were many among them who still held orthodox opinions, but that these were prevented from going to the council; and that sometimes threats, sometimes promises, were resorted to, in order to retain them in that party. For this reason they were compelled to reside together in one house; and never allowed, even for the shortest space of time, to be alone.
It is not right to pass over in silence and without rebuke the calumnies, the imprisonments, the murders, the stripes, the forged letters, the indignities, the stripping naked of virgins, the banishments, the destruction of churches, the acts of incendiarism, the translation of bishops from small towns to large dioceses, and above all, the ill-starred Arian heresy, raised by their means against the true faith. For these causes, therefore, we declare the innocence and purity of our beloved brethren and fellow-ministers, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra in Galatia, and Asclepas, bishop of Gaza, and of all the other servants of God who are with them; and we have written to each of their dioceses, in order that the people of each church may be made acquainted with the innocence of their respective bishops, and that they may recognise them alone and wait for their return. Men who have come down on their churches like wolves , such as Gregorius in Alexandria, Basilius in Ancyra, and Quintianus in Gaza, we charge them not even to call bishops, nor yet Christians, nor to have any communion with them, nor to receive any letters from them, nor to write to them.
Theodorus, bishop of Heraclea in Europe, Narcissus, bishop of Neronias in Cilicia, Acacius, bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine, Stephanus, bishop of Antioch, Ursacius, bishop of Singidunum in Mœsia, Valens, bishop of Mursa in Pannonia, Menophantus, bishop of Ephesus, and Georgius, bishop of Laodicea (for though fear kept him from leaving the East, he has been deposed by the blessed Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and has imbibed the infatuation of the Arians), have on account of their various crimes been cast forth from their bishoprics by the unanimous decision of the holy council. We have decreed that they are not only not to be regarded as bishops, but to be refused communion with us. For those who separate the Son from the substance and divinity of the Father, and alienate the Word from the Father, ought to be separated from the Catholic Church, and alienated from all who bear the name of Christians. Let them then be anathema to you, and to all the faithful, because they have corrupted the word of truth. For the apostle's precept enjoins, if any one should bring to you another gospel than that which you have received, let him be accursed. Command that no one hold communion with them; for light can have no fellowship with darkness. Keep far off from them; for what concord has Christ with Belial? Be careful, beloved brethren, that you neither write to them nor receive their letters. Endeavour, beloved brethren and fellow-ministers, as though present with us in spirit at the council, to give your hearty consent to what is enacted, and affix to it your written signature, for the sake of preserving unanimity of opinion among all our fellow-ministers throughout the world.
We declare those men excommunicate from the Catholic Church who say that Christ is God, but not the true God; that He is the Son, but not the true Son; and that He is both begotten and made; for such persons acknowledge that they understand by the term 'begotten,' that which has been made; and because, although the Son of God existed before all ages, they attribute to Him, who exists not in time but before all time, a beginning and an end.
Valens and Ursacius have, like two vipers brought forth by an asp, proceeded from the Arian heresy. For they boastingly declare themselves to be undoubted Christians, and yet affirm that the Word and the Holy Ghost were both crucified and slain, and that they died and rose again; and they pertinaciously maintain, like the heretics, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are of diverse and distinct essences. We have been taught, and we hold the catholic and apostolic tradition and faith and confession which teach, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost have one essence, which is termed substance by the heretics. If it is asked, 'What is the essence of the Son.' we confess, that it is that which is acknowledged to be that of the Father alone; for the Father has never been, nor could ever be, without the Son, nor the Son without the Father. It is most absurd to affirm that the Father ever existed without the Son, for that this could never be so has been testified by the Son Himself, who said, ' I am in the Father, and the Father in Me ;' and ' I and My Father are one. ' None of us denies that He was begotten; but we say that He was begotten before all things, whether visible or invisible; and that He is the Creator of archangels and angels, and of the world, and of the human race. It is written, ' Wisdom which is the worker of all things taught me ,' and again, ' All things were made by Him. '
He could not have existed always if He had had a beginning, for the everlasting Word has no beginning, and God will never have an end. We do not say that the Father is Son, nor that the Son is Father; but that the Father is Father, and the Son of the Father Son. We confess that the Son is Power of the Father. We confess that the Word is Word of God the Father, and that beside Him there is no other. We believe the Word to be the true God, and Wisdom and Power. We affirm that He is truly the Son, yet not in the way in which others are said to be sons: for they are either gods by reason of their regeneration, or are called sons of God on account of their merit, and not on account of their being of one essence , as is the case with the Father and the Son. We confess an Only-begotten and a Firstborn; but that the Word is only-begotten, who ever was and is in the Father. We use the word firstborn with respect to His human nature. But He is superior (to man) in the new creation (of the Resurrection), inasmuch as He is the Firstborn from the dead.
We confess that God is; we confess the divinity of the Father and of the Son to be one. No one denies that the Father is greater than the Son: not on account of another essence , nor yet on account of their difference, but simply from the very name of the Father being greater than that of the Son. The words uttered by our Lord, ' I and My Father are one ,' are by those men explained as referring to the concord and harmony which prevail between the Father and the Son; but this is a blasphemous and perverse interpretation. We, as Catholics, unanimously condemned this foolish and lamentable opinion: for just as mortal men on a difference having arisen between them quarrel and afterwards are reconciled, so do such interpreters say that disputes and dissension are liable to arise between God the Father Almighty and His Son; a supposition which is altogether absurd and untenable. But we believe and maintain that those holy words, ' I and My Father are one,' point out the oneness of essence which is one and the same in the Father and in the Son.
We also believe that the Son reigns with the Father, that His reign has neither beginning nor end, and that it is not bounded by time, nor can ever cease: for that which always exists never begins to be, and can never cease.
It was not the Holy Ghost who suffered, but the manhood with which He clothed Himself; which He took from the Virgin Mary, which being man was capable of suffering; for man is mortal, whereas God is immortal. We believe that on the third day He rose, the man in God, not God in the man; and that He brought as a gift to His Father the manhood which He had delivered from sin and corruption.
So great is the ignorance and mental darkness of those whom we have mentioned, that they are unable to see the light of truth. They cannot comprehend the meaning of the words: ' that they may be one in us. ' It is obvious why the word ' one' was used; it was because the apostles received the Holy Spirit of God, and yet there were none among them who were the Spirit, neither was there any one of them who was Word, Wisdom, Power, or Only-begotten. ' As You,' He said, ' and I are one, that they, may be one in us.' These holy words, ' that they may be one in us,' are strictly accurate: for the Lord did not say, 'one in the same way that I and the Father are one,' but He said, 'that the disciples, being knit together and united, may be one in faith and in confession, and so in the grace and piety of God the Father, and by the indulgence and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, may be able to become one.'
From this letter may be learned the duplicity of the calumniators, and the injustice of the former judges, as well as the soundness of the decrees. These holy fathers have taught us not only truths respecting the Divine nature, but also the doctrine of the Incarnation.
Constans was much concerned on hearing of the easy temper of his brother, and was highly incensed against those who had contrived this plot and artfully taken advantage of it. He chose two of the bishops who had attended the council of Sardica, and sent them with letters to his brother; he also dispatched Salianus, a military commander who was celebrated for his piety and integrity, on the same embassy. The letters which he forwarded by them, and which were worthy of himself, contained not only entreaties and counsels, but also menaces. In the first place, he charged his brother to attend to all that the bishops might say, and to take cognizance of the crimes of Stephanus and of his accomplices. He also required him to restore Athanasius to his flock; the calumny of the accusers and the injustice and ill-will of his former judges having become evident. He added, that if he would not accede to his request, and perform this act of justice, he would himself go to Alexandria, restore Athanasius to his flock which earnestly longed for him, and expel all opponents.
Constantius was at Antioch when he received this letter; and he agreed to carry out all that his brother commanded.
The wonted opponents of the truth were so much displeased at these proceedings, that they planned a notoriously execrable and impious crime.
The two bishops resided near the foot of the mountain, while the military commander had settled in a lodging in another quarter.
At this period Stephanus held the rudder of the church of Antioch, and had well near sunk the ship, for he employed several tools in his despotic doings, and by their aid involved all who maintained orthodox doctrines in manifold calamities. The leader of these instruments was a young man of a rash and reckless character, who led a very infamous life. He not only dragged away men from the market-place, and treated them with blows and insult, but had the audacity to enter private houses, whence he carried off men and women of irreproachable character. But, not to be too prolix in relating his crimes, I will merely narrate his daring conduct towards the bishops; for this alone is sufficient to give an idea of the unlawful deeds of violence which he perpetrated against the citizens. He went to one of the lowest women of the town, and told her that some strangers had just arrived, who desired to pass the night with her. He took fifteen of his band, placed them in hiding among the stone walls at the bottom of the hill, and then went for the prostitute. After giving the preconcerted signal, and learning that the folk privy to the plot were on the spot, he went to the gate of the courtyard belonging to the inn where the bishops were lodging. The doors were opened by one of the household servants, who had been bribed by him. He then conducted the woman into the house, pointed out to her the door of the room where one of the bishops slept, and desired her to enter. Then he went out to call his accomplices. The door which he had pointed out happened to be that of Euphratas, the elder bishop, whose room was the outer of the two. Vincentius, the other bishop, occupied the inner room. When the woman entered the room of Euphratas, he heard the sound of her footsteps, and, as it was then dark, asked who was there. She spoke, and Euphratas was full of alarm, for he thought that it was a devil imitating the voice of a woman, and he called upon Christ the Saviour for aid. Onager, for this was the name of the leader of this wicked band (a name peculiarly appropriate to him, as he not only used his hands but also his feet as weapons against the pious), had in the meantime returned with his lawless crew, denouncing as criminals those who were expecting to be judges of crime themselves. At the noise which was made all the servants came running in, and up got Vincentius. They closed the gate of the courtyards, and captured seven of the gang; but Onager and the rest made off. The woman was committed to custody with those who had been seized. At the break of day the bishops awoke the officer who had come with them, and they all three proceeded together to the palace, to complain of the audacious acts of Stephanus, whose evil deeds, they said, were too evident to need either trial or torture to prove them. The general loudly demanded of the emperor that the audacious act should not be dealt with synodically, but by ordinary legal process, and offered to give up the clergy attached to the bishops to be first examined, and declared that the agents of Stephanus must undergo the torture too. To this Stephanus insolently objected, alleging that the clergy ought not to be scourged. The emperor and the principal authorities then decided that it would be better to judge the cause in the palace. The woman was first of all questioned, and was asked by whom she was conducted to the inn where the bishops were lodging. She replied, that a young man came to her, and told her that some strangers had arrived who were desirous of her company; that in the evening he conducted her to the inn; that he went to look for his band, and when he had found it, brought her in through the door of the court, and desired her to go into the chamber adjoining the vestibule. She added, that the bishop asked who was there; that he was alarmed; and that he began to pray; and that then others ran to the spot.
After the judges had heard these replies, they ordered the youngest of those who had been arrested to be brought before them. Before he was subjected to the examination by scourging, he confessed the whole plot, and stated that it was planned and carried into execution by Onager. On this latter being brought in he affirmed that he had only acted according to the commands of Stephanus. The guilt of Stephanus being thus demonstrated, the bishops then present were charged to depose him, and expel him from the Church. By his expulsion the Church was not, however, wholly freed from the plague of Arianism. Leontius, who succeeded him in his presidency, was a Phrygian of so subtle and artful a disposition, that he might be said to resemble the sunken rocks of the sea. We shall presently narrate more concerning him.
The emperor Constantius, having become acquainted with the plots formed against the bishops, wrote to the great Athanasius once, and twice, aye and thrice, exhorting him to return from the West. I shall here insert the second letter, because it is the shortest of the three.
Constantius Augustus the Conqueror to Athanasius.
Although I have already apprised you by previous letters, that you can, without fear of molestation, return to our court, in order that you may, according to my ardent desire, be reinstated in your own bishopric, yet I now again dispatch another letter to your gravity to exhort you to take immediately, without fear or suspicion, a public vehicle and return to us, in order that you may receive all that you desire.
When Athanasius returned, Constantius received him with kindness, and bade him go back to the Church of Alexandria. But there were some attached to the court, infected with the errors of Arianism, who maintained that Athanasius ought to cede one church to those who were unwilling to hold communion with him. On this being mentioned to the emperor, and by the emperor to Athanasius, he remarked, that the imperial command appeared to be just; but that he also wished to make a request. The emperor readily promising to grant him whatever he might ask, he said that those in Antioch who objected to hold communion with the party now in possession of the churches wanted temples to pray in, and that it was only fair that one House of God also be assigned to them. This request was deemed just and reasonable by the emperor; but the leaders of the Arian faction resisted its being carried into execution, maintaining that neither party ought to have the churches assigned to them. Constantius on this was struck with high admiration for Athanasius, and sent him back to Alexandria. Gregorius was dead, having met his end at the hands of the Alexandrians themselves. The people kept high holiday in honour of their pastor; feasting marked their joy at seeing him again, and praise was given to God. Not long after Constans departed this life.
Those who had obtained entire ascendency over the mind of Constantius, and influenced him as they pleased, reminded him that Athanasius had been the cause of the differences between his brother and himself, which had nearly led to the rupture of the bonds of nature, and the kindling of a civil war. Constantius was induced by these representations not only to banish, but also to condemn the holy Athanasius to death; and he accordingly dispatched Sebastianus , a military commander, with a very large body of soldiery to slay him, as if he had been a criminal. How the one led the attack and the other escaped will be best told in the words of him who so suffered and was so wonderfully saved.
Thus Athanasius writes in his Apology for his Flight:—
Let the circumstances of my retreat be investigated, and the testimony of the opposite faction be collected; for Arians accompanied the soldiers, as well for the purpose of spurring them on, as of pointing me out to those who did not know me. If they are not touched with sympathy at the tale I tell, at least let them listen in the silence of shame. It was night, and some of the people were keeping vigil, for a communion was expected. A body of soldiers suddenly advanced upon them, consisting of a general and five thousand armed men with naked swords, bows and arrows, and clubs, as I have already stated. The general surrounded the church, posting his men in close order, that those within might be prevented from going out. I deemed that I ought not in such a time of confusion to leave the people, but that I ought rather to be the first to meet the danger; so I sat down on my throne and desired the deacon to read a psalm, and the people to respond, 'For His mercy endures for ever.' Then I bade them all return to their own houses. But now the general with the soldiery forced his way into the church, and surrounded the sanctuary in order to arrest me. The clergy and the laity who had remained clamorously besought me to withdraw. This I firmly refused to do until all the others had retreated. I rose, had a prayer offered, and directed all the people to retire. 'It is better,' said I, 'for me to meet the danger alone, than for any of you to be hurt.' When the greater number of the people had left the church, and just as the rest were following, the monks and some of the clergy who had remained came up and drew me out. And so, may the truth be my witness, the Lord leading and protecting me, we passed through the midst of the soldiers, some of whom were stationed around the sanctuary, and others marching about the church. Thus I went out unperceived, and fervently thanked God that I had not abandoned the people, but that after they had been sent away in safety, I had been enabled to escape from the hands of those who sought my life.
Athanasius having thus escaped the bloodstained hands of his adversaries, Georgius, who was truly another wolf, was entrusted with authority over the flock. He treated the sheep with more cruelty than wolf, or bear, or leopard could have shown. He compelled young women who had vowed perpetual virginity, not only to disown the communion of Athanasius, but also to anathematize the faith of the fathers. The agent in his cruelty was Sebastianus, an officer in command of troops. He ordered a fire to be kindled in the centre of the city, and placed the virgins, who were stripped naked, close to it, commanding them to deny the faith. Although they formed a most sorrowful and pitiable spectacle for believers as well as for unbelievers, they considered that all these dishonours conferred the highest honour on them; and they joyfully received the blows inflicted on them on account of their faith. All these facts shall be more clearly narrated by their own pastor.
About Lent, Georgius returned from Cappadocia, and added to the evils which he had been taught by our enemies. After the Easter week virgins were cast into prison, bishops were bound and dragged away by the soldiers, the homes of widows and of orphans were pillaged, robbery and violence went on from house to house, and the Christians during the darkness of night were seized and torn away from their dwellings. Seals were fixed on many houses. The brothers of the clergy were in peril for their brothers' sake. These cruelties were very atrocious, but still more so were those which were subsequently perpetrated. In the week following the holy festival of Pentecost, the people who were keeping a fast came out to the cemetery to pray, because they all renounced any communion with Georgius. This vilest of men was informed of this circumstance, and he incited Sebastianus the military commander, a Manichean , to attack the people; and, accordingly, on the Lord's day itself he rushed upon them with a large body of armed soldiers wielding naked swords, and bows, and arrows. He found but few Christians in the act of praying, for most of them had retired on account of the lateness of the hour. Then he did such deeds as might be expected from one who had lent his ears to such teachers. He ordered a large fire to be lighted, and the virgins to be brought close to it, and then tried to compel them to declare themselves of the Arian creed. When he perceived that they were conquering, and giving no heed to the fire, he ordered them to be stripped naked, and to be beaten until their faces for a long while were scarcely recognisable. He then seized forty men, and inflicted on them a new kind of torture. He ordered them to be scourged with branches of palm-trees, retaining their thorns; and by these their flesh was so lacerated that some because of the thorns fixed fast in them had again and again to put themselves under the surgeon's hand; others were not able to bear the agony and died. All who survived, and also the virgins, were then banished to the Greater Oasis. They even refused to give up the bodies of the dead to their kinsfolk for burial, but flung them away unburied, and hid them just as they pleased, in order that it might appear that they had nothing to do with these cruel transactions, and were ignorant of them. But they were deceived in this foolish expectation: for the friends of the slain, while they rejoiced at the faithfulness of the deceased, deeply lamented the loss of the corpses, and spread abroad a full account of the cruelty that had been perpetrated.
The following bishops were banished from Egypt and from Libya:— Ammonius, Muïus, Caius, Philo, Hermes, Plenius, Psinosiris, Nilammon, Agapius, Anagamphus, Marcus, Dracontius, Adelphius, another Ammonius, another Marcus, and Athenodorus; and also the presbyters Hierax and Dioscorus. These were all driven into exile in so cruel a manner that many died on the road, and others at the place of their banishment. The persecutors caused the death of more than thirty bishops. For, like Ahab, their mind was set on rooting out the truth, had it been possible.
Athanasius also, in a letter addressed to the virgins who were treated with so much barbarity, uses the following words:
Let none of you be grieved although these impious heretics grudge you burial and prevent your corpses being carried forth. The impiety of the Arians has reached such a height, that they block up the gates, and sit like so many demons around the tombs, in order to hinder the dead from being interred.
These and many other similar atrocities were perpetrated by Georgius in Alexandria.
The holy Athanasius was well aware that there was no spot which could be considered a place of safety for him; for the emperor had promised a very large reward to whoever should bring him alive, or his head as a proof of his death.
After the death of Constans, Magnentius assumed the chief authority over the Western empire; and, to repress his usurpation, Constantius repaired to Europe. But this war, severe as it was, did not put an end to the war against the Church. Constantius, who had embraced Arian tenets and readily yielded to the influence of others, was persuaded to convoke a council at Milan , a city of Italy, and first to compel all the assembled bishops to sign the deposition enacted by the iniquitous judges at Tyre; and then, since Athanasius had been expelled from the Church, to draw up another confession of faith. The bishops assembled in council on the receipt of the imperial letter, but they were far from acting according to its directions. On the contrary, they told the emperor to his face that what he had commanded was unjust and impious. For this act of courage they were expelled from the Church, and relegated to the furthest boundaries of the empire.
The admirable Athanasius thus mentions this circumstance in his Apology :—
Who, he writes,
can narrate such atrocities as they have perpetrated? A short time ago when the Churches were in the enjoyment of peace, and when the people were assembled for prayer, Liberius , bishop of Rome, Paulinus, bishop of the metropolis of Gaul , Dionysius, bishop of the metropolis of Italy , Luciferus, bishop of the metropolis of the Isles of Sardinia , and Eusebius, bishop of one of the cities of Italy , who were all exemplary bishops and preachers of the truth, were seized and driven into exile, for no other cause than because they could not assent to the Arian heresy, nor sign the false accusation which had been framed against us. It is unnecessary that I should speak of the great Hosius, that aged and faithful confessor of the faith, for every one knows that he also was sent into banishment. Of all the bishops he is the most illustrious. What council can be mentioned in which he did not preside, and convince all present by the power of his reasoning? What Church does not still retain the glorious memorials of his protection? Did any one ever go to him sorrowing, and not leave him rejoicing? Who ever asked his aid, and did not obtain all that he desired? Yet they had the boldness to attack this great man, simply because, from his knowledge of the impiety of their calumnies, he refused to affix his signature to their artful accusations against us.
From the above narrative will be seen the violence of the Arians against these holy men. Athanasius also gives in the same book an account of the numerous plots formed by the chiefs of the Arian faction against many others:—
Did any one, said he,
whom they persecuted and got into their power ever escape from them without suffering what injuries they pleased to inflict? Was any one who was an object of their search found by them whom they did not subject to the most agonizing death, or else to the mutilation of all his limbs? The sentences inflicted by the judges are all attributable to these heretics; for the judges are but the agents of their will, and of their malice. Where is there a place which contains no memorial of their atrocities? If any one ever differed from them in opinion, did they not, like Jezebel, falsely accuse and oppress him? Where is there a church which has not been plunged in sorrow by their plots against its bishop? Antioch has to mourn the loss of Eustathius, the faithful and the orthodox. Balaneæ weeps for Euphration ; Paltus and Antaradus for Cymatius and Carterius. Adrianople has been called to deplore the loss of the well-beloved Eutropius , and of Lucius his successor, who was repeatedly loaded with chains, and expired beneath their weight. Ancyra, Berœa, and Gaza had to mourn the absence of Marcellus , Cyrus and Asclepas , who, after having suffered much ill-treatment from this deceitful sect, were driven into exile. Messengers were sent in quest of Theodulus and Olympius , bishops of Thrace, as well as of me and of the presbyters of my diocese; and had they found us, we should no doubt have been put to death. But at the very time that they were planning our destruction we effected our escape, although they had sent letters to Donatus, the proconsul, against Olympius, and to Philagrius , against me.
Such were the audacious acts of this impious faction against the most holy Christians. Hosius was the bishop of Cordova, and was the most highly distinguished of all those who assembled at the council of Nicæa; he also obtained the first place among those convened at Sardica.
I now desire to insert in my history an account of the admirable arguments addressed by the far-famed Liberius, in defence of the truth, to the emperor Constantius. They are recorded by some of the pious men of that period in order to stimulate others to the exercise of similar zeal in divine things. Liberius had succeeded Julius, the successor of Silvester, in the government of the church of Rome.
O Emperor, ecclesiastical sentences ought to be enacted with strictest justice: therefore, if it be pleasing to your piety, order the court to be assembled, and if it be seen that Athanasius deserves condemnation, then let sentence be passed upon him according to ecclesiastical forms. For it is not possible for us to condemn a man unheard and untried.
The whole world has condemned his impiety; but he, as he has done from the first, laughs at the danger.
Those who love not the glory of God, but who attach greater value to your gifts, have condemned a man whom they have neither seen nor judged; this is very contrary to the principles of Christians.
No judgment has ever been passed on him in his presence. Those who there assembled condemned him after he had retired.
Eusebius the Eunuch foolishly interposed.—
It was demonstrated at the council of Nicæa that he held opinions entirely at variance with the catholic faith.
Of all those who sailed to Mareotis, and who were sent for the purpose of drawing up memorials against the accused, five only delivered the sentence against him. Of the five who were thus sent, two are now dead, namely, Theognis and Theodorus. The three others, Maris, Valens, and Ursacius, are still living. Sentence was passed at Sardica against all those who were sent for this purpose to Mareotis. They presented a petition to the council soliciting pardon for having drawn up at Mareotis memorials against Athanasius, consisting of false accusations and depositions of only one party. Their petition is still in our hands. Whose cause are we to espouse, O Emperor? With whom are we to agree and hold communion? With those who first condemned Athanasius, and then solicited pardon for having condemned him, or with those who have condemned these latter?
Epictetus the Bishop .—
O Emperor, it is not on behalf of the faith, nor in defence of ecclesiastical judgments that Liberius is pleading; but merely in order that he may boast before the Roman senators of having conquered the emperor in argument.
The Emperor (addressing Liberius).—
What portion do you constitute of the universe, that you alone by yourself take part with an impious man, and are destroying the peace of the empire and of the whole world?
My standing alone does not make the truth a whit the weaker. According to the ancient story, there are found but three men resisting a decree.
Eusebius the Eunuch .—
You make our emperor a Nebuchadnezzar.
By no means. But you rashly condemn a man without any trial. What I desire is, in the first place, that a general confession of faith be signed, confirming that drawn up at the council of Nicæa. And secondly, that all our brethren be recalled from exile, and reinstated in their own bishoprics. If, when all this has been carried into execution, it can be shown that the doctrines of all those who now fill the churches with trouble are conformable to the apostolic faith, then we will all assemble at Alexandria to meet the accused, the accusers, and their defender, and after having examined the cause, we will pass judgment upon it.
Epictetus the Bishop .—
There will not be sufficient post-carriages to convey so many bishops.
Ecclesiastical affairs can be transacted without post-carriages. The churches are able to provide means for the conveyance of their respective bishops to the sea coast.
The Emperor .—
The sentence which has once been passed ought not to be revoked. The decision of the greater number of bishops ought to prevail. You alone retain friendship towards that impious man.
O Emperor, it is a thing hitherto unheard of, that a judge should accuse the absent of impiety, as if he were his personal enemy.
The Emperor .—
All without exception have been injured by him, but none so deeply as I have been. Not content with the death of my eldest brother , he never ceased to excite Constans, of blessed memory, to enmity against me; but I, with much moderation, put up alike with the vehemence of both the instigator and his victim. Not one of the victories which I have gained, not even excepting those over Magnentius and Silvanus, equals the ejection of this vile man from the government of the Church.
Do not vindicate your own hatred and revenge, O Emperor, by the instrumentality of bishops; for their hands ought only to be raised for purposes of blessing and of sanctification. If it be consonant with your will, command the bishops to return to their own residences; and if it appear that they are of one mind with him who today maintains the true doctrines of the confession of faith signed at Nicæa, then let them come together and see to the peace of the world, in order that an innocent man may not serve as a mark for reproach.
The Emperor .—
I have already taken leave of the brethren who are in that city. The decrees of the Church are of greater importance than a residence in Rome.
The Emperor .—
You have three days to consider whether you will sign the document and return to Rome; if not, you must choose the place of your banishment.
Neither three days nor three months can change my sentiments. Send me wherever you please.
After the lapse of two days the emperor sent for Liberius, and finding his opinions unchanged, he commanded him to be banished to Berœa, a city of Thrace. Upon the departure of Liberius, the emperor sent him five hundred pieces of gold to defray his expenses. Liberius said to the messenger who brought them,
Go, and give them back to the emperor; he has need of them to pay his troops. The empress also sent him a sum of the same amount; he said,
Take it to the emperor, for he may want it to pay his troops; but if not, let it be given to Auxentius and Epictetus, for they stand in need of it. Eusebius the eunuch brought him other sums of money, and he thus addressed him:
This victorious champion of the truth was sent into Thrace, according to the imperial order. Two years after this event Constantius went to Rome. The ladies of rank urged their husbands to petition the emperor for the restoration of the shepherd to his flock: they added, that if this were not granted, they would desert them, and go themselves after their great pastor. Their husbands replied, that they were afraid of incurring the resentment of the emperor.
If we were to ask him, they continued,
being men, he would deem it an unpardonable offense; but if you were yourselves to present the petition, he would at any rate spare you, and would either accede to your request, or else dismiss you without injury. These noble ladies adopted this suggestion, and presented themselves before the emperor in all their customary splendour of array, that so the sovereign, judging their rank from their dress, might count them worthy of being treated with courtesy and kindness. Thus entering the presence, they besought him to take pity on the condition of so large a city, deprived of its shepherd, and made an easy prey to the attacks of wolves. The emperor replied, that the flock possessed a shepherd capable of tending it, and that no other was needed in the city. For after the banishment of the great Liberius, one of his deacons, named Felix, had been appointed bishop. He preserved inviolate the doctrines set forth in the Nicene confession of faith, yet he held communion with those who had corrupted that faith. For this reason none of the citizens of Rome would enter the House of Prayer while he was in it. The ladies mentioned these facts to the emperor. Their persuasions were successful; and he commanded that the great Liberius should be recalled from exile, and that the two bishops should conjointly rule the Church. The edict of the emperor was read in the circus, and the multitude shouted that the imperial ordinance was just; that the spectators were divided into two factions, each deriving its name from its own colours , and that each faction would now have its own bishop. After having thus ridiculed the edict of the emperor, they all exclaimed with one voice, Christian people had uttered these pious and righteous acclamations, the holy Liberius returned, and Felix retired to another city.
I have, for the sake of preserving order, appended this narrative to what relates to the proceedings of the bishops at Milan. I shall now return to the relation of events in their due course.
When all who defended the faith had been removed, those who moulded the mind of the emperor according to their own will, flattering themselves that the faith which they opposed might be easily subverted, and Arianism established in its stead, persuaded Constantius to convene the Bishops of both East and West at Ariminum , in order to remove from the Creed the terms which had been devised by the Fathers to counteract the corrupt craft of Arius—
substance , and
of one substance. For they would have it that these terms had caused dissension between church and church. On their assembling in synod the partizans of the Arian faction strove to trick the majority of the bishops, especially those of cities of the Western Empire, who were men of simple and unsophisticated ways. The body of the Church, they argued again and again, must not be torn asunder for the sake of two terms which are not to be found in the Bible; and, while they confessed the propriety of describing the Son as in all things
like the Father, pressed the omission of the word
substance as unscriptural. The motives, however, of the propounders of these views were seen through by the Council, and they were consequently repudiated. The orthodox bishops declared their mind to the emperor in a letter; for, said they, we are sons and heirs of the Fathers of the Council of Nicæa, and if we were to have the hardihood to take away anything from what was by them subscribed, or to add anything to what they so excellently settled, we should declare ourselves no true sons, but accusers of them that begot us. But the exact terms of their confession of faith will be more accurately given in the words of their letter to Constantius.
Summoned, we believe, at the bidding of God, and in obedience to your piety, we bishops of the Western Church assembled in synod at Ariminum in order that the faith of the Church Catholic might be set forth, and its opponents exposed. After long consideration we have found it to be plainly best for us to hold fast and guard, and by guarding keep safe unto the end, the faith established from the first, preached by Prophets, and Evangelists, and Apostles, through our Lord Jesus Christ, warden of your empire, and champion of your salvation. For it is plainly absurd and unlawful to make any change in the doctrines rightly and justly defined, and in matters examined at Nicæa with the cognisance of the right glorious Constantine, your Father and Emperor, whereof the teaching and spirit was published and preached that mankind might hear and understand. This faith was destined to be the one rival and destroyer of the Arian heresy, and by it not only the Arian itself, but likewise all other heresies were undone. To this faith to add anything is verily perilous; from it to subtract anything is to run great risk. If it have either addition or loss, our foes will feel free to act as they please. Accordingly Ursacius and Valens, declared adherents and friends of the Arian dogma, were pronounced separate from our communion. To keep their place in it, they asked to be granted a locus penitentiæ and pardon for all the points wherein they had owned themselves in error; as is testified by the documents written by themselves, by means of which they obtained favour and forgiveness. These events were going on at the very time when the synod was meeting at Milan, the presbyters of the church of Rome being also present. It was known that Constantine, who, though dead, is worthy of remembrance, had, with all exactitude and care, set forth the creed drawn up: and now that, after receiving Baptism, he was dead, and had passed away to the peace which he deserved. We judged it absurd for us after him to indulge in any innovation, and throw a slur on all the holy confessors and martyrs who had devised and formulated this doctrine, in that their minds have ever remained bound by the old bond of the Church. Their faith God has handed down even to the times of your own reign, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whose grace such empire is yours that you rule over all the world. Yet again those pitiable and wretched men, with lawless daring, have proclaimed themselves preachers of their unholy opinion, and are taking in hand the overthrow of all the force of the truth. For when at your command the synod assembled, then they laid bare their own disingenuous desires. For they set about trying through villany and confusion to make innovation. They got hold of certain of their own following— one Germanius , and Auxentius , and Caius , promoters of heresy and discord, whose doctrine, though but one, transcends a very host of blasphemies. When, however, they became aware that we were not of their way of thinking, nor in sympathy with their vicious projects, they made their way into our meeting as though to make some other proposal, but a very short time was enough to convict them of their real intentions. Therefore in order to save the management of the Church from falling from time to time into the same difficulties, and to prevent them from being confounded in whirlpools of disturbance and disorder, it has seemed the safe course to keep what has been defined aforetime fixed and unchanged, and to separate the above-named from our communion. Wherefore we have sent envoys to your clemency to signify and explain the mind of the synod as expressed in this letter. These envoys before all things we have charged to guard the truth in accordance with the old and right definitions. They are to inform your holiness, not as did Ursacius and Valens, that there will be peace if the truth be upset; for how can the destroyers of peace be agents of peace? But rather that these changes will bring strife and disturbance, as well on the rest of the cities, as on the Roman church. Wherefore we beseech your clemency to receive our envoys with kindly ears and gentle mien, and not to suffer any new thing to flout the dead. Suffer us to abide in the definition and settlement of our Fathers, whom we would unhesitatingly declare to have done all they did with intelligence and wisdom, and with the Holy Ghost. The innovation now sought to be introduced is filling the faithful with unbelief, and unbelievers with credulity.
We beg you to order bishops in distant parts, who are afflicted alike by advanced age and poverty, to be provided with facilities for travelling home, that the churches be not left long deprived of their bishops.
And yet again this one thing we supplicate, that nothing be taken from or added to the established doctrines, but that all remain unbroken, as they have been preserved by your father's piety, and to our own day. Let us toil no longer nor be kept away from our own dioceses, but let the bishops with their own people spend their days in peace, in prayer, and in worship, offering supplication for your empire, and health, and peace, which God shall grant you for ever and ever. Our envoys, who will also instruct your holiness out of the sacred Scriptures, convey the signatures and salutations of the bishops.
The letter was written, and the envoys sent, but the high officers of the Imperial Court, though they took the dispatch and delivered it to their master, refused to introduce the envoys, on the ground that the sovereign was occupied with state affairs. They took this course in the hope that the bishops, annoyed at delay, and eager to return to the cities entrusted to their care, would at length be compelled themselves to break up and disperse the bulwark erected against heresy. But their ingenuity was frustrated, for the noble champions of the Faith dispatched a second letter to the emperor, exhorting him to admit the envoys to audience and dissolve the synod. This letter I subjoin.
The Second Letter of the Synod to Constantius.
Most illustrious lord and autocrat, we have received the letter of your clemency, informing us that, in consequence of occupations of state, you have hitherto been unable to see our envoys. You bid us await their return, that your piety may come to a decision on the object we have in view, and on the decrees of our predecessors. But we venture in this letter to repeat to your clemency the point which we urged before, for we have in no way withdrawn from our position. We entreat you to receive with benign countenance the letter of our humility, wherein now we make answer to your piety, and the points which we have ordered to be submitted to your benignity by our envoys. Your clemency is no less aware than we are ourselves how serious and unfitting a state of things it is, that in the time of your most happy reign so many churches should seem to be without bishops. Wherefore once again, most glorious autocrat, we beseech you that, if it be pleasing to your humanity, you will command us to return to our churches before the rigour of winter, that we may be able, with our people, as we have done and ever do, to offer most earnest prayers for the health and wealth of your empire to Almighty God, and to Christ His Son, our Lord and Saviour.
After this letter they irritated the emperor, and got the majority of the bishops, against their will, to a certain town of Thrace, of the name of Nica. Some simple men they deluded, and others they terrified, into carrying out their old contrivance for injuring the true religion, by erasing the words
of one Substance from the Creed, and inserting instead of them the word
like. I insert their formula in this history, not as being couched in proper terms, but because it convicts the faction of Arius, for it is not even accepted by the disaffected of the present time. Now, instead of
the like they preach
Unsound Creed put forth at Nica in Thrace.
We believe in one only true God, Father Almighty, of Whom are all things. And in the only-begotten Son of God, Who before all ages and before every beginning was begotten of God, through Whom all things were made, both visible and invisible: alone begotten, only-begotten of the Father alone, God of God: like the Father that begot Him, according to the Scriptures, Whose generation no one knows except only the Father that begot Him. This Only-begotten Son of God, sent by His Father, we know to have come down from heaven, as it is written, for the destruction of sin and death; begotten of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, as it is written, according to the flesh. Who companied with His disciples, and when the dispensation was fulfilled, according to the Father's will, was crucified, dead, and buried, and descended to the world below, at Whom Hell himself trembled. On the third day He rose from the dead and companied with His disciples forty days. He was taken up into Heaven, and sits on the right hand of His Father, and is coming at the last day of the Resurrection, in His Father's Glory, to render to every one according to his works. And we believe in the Holy Ghost, which the Only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, both God and Lord, promised to send to man, the Comforter, as it is written, the Spirit of Truth. This Spirit He Himself sent after He had ascended into Heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father, from thence to come to judge both quick and dead. But the word 'the Substance,' which was too simply inserted by the Fathers, and, not being understood by the people, was a cause of scandal through its not being found in the Scriptures, it has seemed good to us to remove, and that for the future no mention whatever be permitted of 'Substance,' on account of the sacred Scriptures nowhere making any mention of the 'Substance' of the Father and the Son. Nor must one 'essence ' be named in relation to the person of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And we call the Son like the Father, as the Holy Scriptures call Him and teach; but all the heresies, both those already condemned, and any, if such there be, which have risen against the document thus put forth, let them be Anathema.
This Creed was subscribed by the bishops, some being frightened and some cajoled, but those who refused to give in their adhesion were banished to the most remote regions of the world.
The condemnation of this formula by all the champions of the truth, and specially those of the West, is shown by the letter which they wrote to the Illyrians. First of the signatories was Damasus, who obtained the presidency of the church of Rome after Liberius, and was adorned with many virtues. With him signed ninety bishops of Italy and Galatia , now called Gaul, who met together at Rome. I would have inserted their names but that I thought it superfluous.
We believe that we, priests of God, by whom it is right for the rest to be instructed, are holding and teaching our people the Holy Creed which was founded on the teaching of the Apostles, and in no way departs from the definitions of the Fathers. But through a report of the brethren in Gaul and Venetia we have learned that certain men are fallen into heresy.
It is the duty of the bishops not only to take precautions against this mischief, but also to make a stand against whatever divergent teaching has arisen, either from incomplete instruction, or the simplicity of readers of unsound commentators. They should be minded not to slide into slippery paths, but rather whenever divergent counsels are carried to their ears, to hold fast the doctrine of our fathers. It has, therefore, been decided that Auxentius of Milan is in this matter specially condemned. So it is right that all the teachers of the law in the Roman Empire should be well instructed in the law, and not befoul the faith with divergent doctrines.
When first the wickedness of the heretics began to flourish, and when, as now, the blasphemy of the Arians was crawling to the front, our fathers, three hundred and eighteen bishops, the holiest prelates in the Roman Empire, deliberated at Nicæa. The wall which they set up against the weapons of the devil, and the antidote wherewith they repelled his deadly poisons, was their confession that the Father and the Son are of one substance, one godhead, one virtue, one power, one likeness , and that the Holy Ghost is of the same essence and substance. Whoever did not thus think was judged separate from our communion. Their deliberation was worthy of all respect, and their definition sound. But certain men have intended by other later discussions to corrupt and befoul it. Yet, at the very outset, error was so far set right by the bishops on whom the attempt was made at Ariminum to compel them to manipulate or innovate on the faith, that they confessed themselves seduced by opposite arguments, or owned that they had not perceived any contradiction to the opinion of the Fathers delivered at Nicæa. No prejudice could arise from the number of bishops gathered at Ariminum, since it is well known that neither the bishop of the Romans, whose opinion ought before all others to have been waited for, nor Vincentius, whose stainless episcopate had lasted so many years, nor the rest, gave in their adhesion to such doctrines. And this is the more significant, since, as has been already said, the very men who seemed to be tricked into surrender, themselves, in their wiser moments, testified their disapproval.
Your sincerity then perceives that this one faith, which was founded at Nicæa on the authority of the Apostles, ought to be kept secure for ever. You perceive that with us, the bishops of the East, who confess themselves Catholic, and the western bishops, together glory in it. We believe that before long those who think otherwise ought without delay to be put out from our communion, and deprived of the name of bishop, that their flocks may be freed from error and breathe freely. For they cannot be expected to correct the errors of their people when they themselves are the victims of error. May the opinion of your reverence be in harmony with that of all the priests of God. We believe you to be fixed and firm in it, and thus ought we rightly to believe with you. May your charity make us glad by your reply.
Beloved brethren, farewell.
The great Athanasius also, in his letter to the Africans, writes thus about the council at Ariminum. Under these circumstances who will tolerate any mention of the council of Ariminum or any other beside the Nicene? Who would not express detestation of the setting aside of the words of the Fathers, and the preference for those introduced at Ariminum by violence and party strife? Who would wish to be associated with these men— fellows who do not, forsooth, accept their own words? In their own ten or a dozen synods they have laid down, as has been narrated already, now one thing now another; and at the present time these synods, one after another, they are themselves openly denouncing. They are now suffering the fate undergone of old by the traitors of the Jews. For as is written in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah
they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water, so these men, in their opposition to the Œcumenical synod, have hewed for themselves many synods which have all proved vain and like
buds that yield no meal, let us not therefore admit those who cite the council of Ariminum or any other but that of Nicæa, for indeed the very citers of Ariminum do not seem to know what was done there; if they had they would have held their tongues. For you, beloved, have learned from your own representatives at that Council, and are consequently very well aware, that Ursacius, Valens, Eudoxius, and Auxentius, and with them Demophilus were asked to anathematize the Arian heresy, and made excuse, choosing rather to be its champions, and so were all deposed for making propositions contrary to the Nicene decrees. The bishops, on the contrary, who were the true servants of the Lord, and of the right faith—about two hundred in number—declared their adherence to the Nicene Council alone, and their refusal to entertain the thought of either subtraction from, or addition to, its decrees. This conclusion they have communicated to Constantius, by whose order the council assembled.
On the other hand the bishops who were deposed at Ariminum have been received by Constantius, and have succeeded in getting the two hundred who sentenced them grossly insulted, and threatened with not being allowed to return to their dioceses, and with having to undergo rigorous treatment in Thrace, and that in the winter, in order to force them to accept the innovators' measures.
If, then, we hear any one appealing to Ariminum, show us, let us rejoin, first the sentence of deposition, and then the document drawn up by the bishops, in which they declare that they do not seek to go beyond the terms drawn up by the Nicene Fathers, nor appeal to any other council than that of Nicæa. In reality, these are just the facts they conceal, while they put prominently forward the forced confession of Thrace. They do but show themselves friends of the Arian heresy, and strangers to the sound faith. Only let any one be willing to put side by side that great synod, and those others to which these men appeal, and he will perceive, on the one side, true religion, on the other, folly and disorder. The fathers of Nicæa met together not after being deposed, but after confessing that the Son was of the Substance of the Father. These men were deposed once, a second time, and again a third time at Ariminum, and then dared to lay down that it is wrong to attribute Substance or Essence to God. So strange and so many were the tricks and machinations concocted by the mad gang of Arius in the West against the dogmas of the Truth.
At Antioch Placidus was succeeded by Stephanus, who was expelled from the Church. Leontius then accepted the Primacy, but in violation of the decrees of the Nicene Council, for he had mutilated himself, and was an eunuch. The cause of his rash deed is thus narrated by the blessed Athanasius. Leontius, it seems, was the victim of slanderous statements on account of a certain young woman of the name of Eustolia. Finding himself prevented from dwelling with her he mutilated himself for her sake, in order that he might feel free to live with her. But he did not clear himself of suspicion, and all the more for this reason was deposed from the presbyterate. So much Athanasius has written about the rest of his earlier life. I shall now give a summary exposure of his evil conduct. Now though he shared the Arian error, he always endeavoured to conceal his unsoundness. He observed that the clergy and the rest of the people were divided into two parts, the one, in giving glory to the Son, using the conjunction
and, the other using the preposition
through of the Son, and applying
in to the Holy Ghost. He himself offered all the doxology in silence, and all that those standing near him could hear was the
For ever and ever. And had not the exceeding wickedness of his soul been betrayed by other means, it might have been said that he adopted this contrivance from a wish to promote concord among the people. But when he had wrought much mischief to the champions of the truth, and continued to give every support to the promoters of impiety, he was convicted of concealing his own unsoundness. He was influenced both by his fear of the people, and by the grievous threats which Constantius had uttered against any who had dared to say that the Son was unlike the Father. His real sentiments were however proved by his conduct. Followers of the Apostolic doctrines never received from him either ordination or indeed the least encouragement. Men, on the other hand, who sided with the Arian superstition, were both allowed perfect liberty in expressing their opinions, and were from time to time admitted to priestly office. At this juncture Aetius, the master of Eunomius, who promoted the Arian error by his speculations, was admitted to the diaconate. Flavianus and Diodorus, however, who had embraced an ascetic career, and were open champions of the Apostolic decrees, publicly protested against the attacks of Leontius against true religion. That a man nurtured in iniquity and scheming to win notoriety by ungodliness should be counted worthy of the diaconate, was, they urged, a disgrace to the Church. They further threatened that they would withdraw from his communion, travel to the western empire, and publish his plots to the world. Leontius was now alarmed, and suspended Aetius from his sacred office, but continued to show him marked favour.
That excellent pair Flavianus and Diodorus, though not yet admitted to the priesthood and still ranked with the laity, worked night and day to stimulate men's zeal for truth. They were the first to divide choirs into two parts, and to teach them to sing the psalms of David antiphonally. Introduced first at Antioch, the practice spread in all directions, and penetrated to the ends of the earth. Its originators now collected the lovers of the Divine word and work into the Churches of the Martyrs, and with them spent the night in singing psalms to God.
When Leontius perceived this, he did not think it safe to try to prevent them, for he saw that the people were exceedingly well-disposed towards these excellent men. However, putting a colour of courtesy on his speech, he requested that they would perform this act of worship in the churches. They were perfectly well aware of his evil intent. Nevertheless they set about obeying his behest and readily summoned their choir to the Church, exhorting them to sing praises to the good Lord. Nothing, however, could induce Leontius to correct his wickedness, but he put on the mask of equity, and concealed the iniquity of Stephanus and Placidus. Men who had accepted the corruption of the faith of priests and deacons, although they had embraced a life of vile irregularity, he added to the roll; while others adorned with every kind of virtue and firm adherents of apostolic doctrines, he left unrecognised. Thus it came to pass that among the clergy were numbered a majority of men tainted with heresy, while the mass of the laity were champions of the Faith, and even professional teachers lacked courage to lay bare their blasphemy. In truth the deeds of impiety and iniquity done by Placidus, Stephanus, and Leontius, in Antioch are so many as to want a special history of their own, and so terrible as to be worthy of the lament of David; for of them too it must be said
For lo your enemies make a murmuring and they that hate you lift up their head. They have imagined craftily against the people and taken counsel against your secret ones. They have said come and let us root them out that they be no more a people: and that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
Let us now continue the course of our narrative.
Germanicia is a city on the coasts of Cilicia, Syria, and Cappadocia, and belongs to the province called Euphratisia. Eudoxius, the head of its church, directly he heard of the death of Leontius, betook himself to Antioch and clutched the see, where he ravaged the vineyard of the Lord like a wild boar. He did not even attempt to hide his evil ways, like Leontius, but raged in direct attack upon the apostolic decrees, and involved in various troubles all who had the hardihood to gainsay him. Now at this time Basilius had succeeded Marcellus, and held the helm of the church of Ancyra, the capital of Galatia, and Sebastia, the chief city of Armenia, was under the guidance of Eustathius. No sooner had these bishops heard of the iniquity and madness of Eudoxius, than they wrote to inform the Emperor Constantius of his audacity. Constantius was now still tarrying in the west, and, after the death of the tyrants, was endeavouring to heal the harm they had caused. Both bishops were well known to the Emperor and had great influence with him on account of the high character they bore.
On receipt of these dispatches Constantius wrote to the Antiochenes denying that he had committed the see of Antioch to Eudoxius, as Eudoxius had publicly announced. He ordered that Eudoxius be banished, and be punished for the course he had taken at the Bithynian Nicæa, where he had ordered the synod to assemble. Eudoxius himself had persuaded the officers entrusted with authority in the imperial household to fix Nicæa for the Council. But the Supreme Ruler and Governor, who knows the future like the past, stopped the assembly by a mighty earthquake, whereby the greater part of the city was overthrown, and most of the inhabitants destroyed. On learning this the assembled bishops were seized with panic, and returned to their own churches. But I regard this as a contrivance of the divine wisdom, for in that city the doctrine of the faith of the apostles had been defined by the holy Fathers. In that same city the bishops who were assembling on this later occasion were intending to lay down the contrary. The sameness of name would have been sure to furnish a means of deception to the Arian crew, and trick unsophisticated souls. They meant to call the council
the Nicene, and identify it with the famous council of old. But He who has care for the churches disbanded the synod.
After a time, at the suggestion of the accusers of Eudoxius, Constantius ordered the synod to be held at Seleucia. This town of Isauria lies on the seashore and is the chief town of the district. Hither the bishops of the East, and with them those of Pontus in Asia, were ordered to assemble.
The see of Cæsarea, the capital of Palestine, was now held by Acacius, who had succeeded Eusebius. He had been condemned by the council of Sardica, but had expressed contempt for so large an assembly of bishops, and had refused to accept their adverse decision. At Jerusalem Macarius, whom I have often mentioned, was succeeded by Maximus, a man conspicuous in his struggles on behalf of religion, for he had been deprived of his right eye and maimed in his right arm.
On his translation to the life which knows no old age, Cyrillus, an earnest champion of the apostolic decrees, was dignified with the Episcopal office. These men in their contentions with one another for the first place brought great calamities on the state. Acacius seized some small occasion, deposed Cyrillus, and drove him from Jerusalem. But Cyrillus passed by Antioch, which he had found without a pastor, and came to Tarsus, where he dwelt with the excellent Silvanus, then bishop of that see. No sooner did Acacius become aware of this than he wrote to Silvanus and informed him of the deposition of Cyrillus. Silvanus however, both out of regard for Cyrillus, and not without suspicion of his people, who greatly enjoyed the stranger's teaching, refused to prohibit him from taking a part in the ministrations of the church. When however they had arrived at Seleucia, Cyrillus joined with the party of Basilius and Eustathius and Silvanus and the rest in the council. But when Acacius joined the assembled bishops, who numbered one hundred and fifty, he refused to be associated in their counsels before Cyrillus, as one stripped of his bishopric, had been put out from among them. There were some who, eager for peace, besought Cyrillus to withdraw, with a pledge that after the decision of the decrees they would enquire into his case. He would not give way, and Acacius left them and went out. Then meeting Eudoxius he removed his alarm, and encouraged him with a promise that he would stand his friend and supporter. Thus he hindered him from taking part in the council, and set out with him for Constantinople.
Constantius, on his return from the West, passed some time at Constantinople. There Acacius urged many accusations against the assembled bishops in presence of the emperor, called them a set of vile characters convoked for the ruin and destruction of the churches, and so fired the imperial wrath. And not least was Constantius moved by what was alleged against Cyrillus,
for, said Acachius,
the holy robe, which the illustrious Constantine the emperor, in his desire to honour the church of Jerusalem, gave to Macarius, the bishop of that city, to be worn when he performed the rite of divine baptism, all fashioned with golden threads as it was, has been sold by Cyrillus. It has been bought, he continued,
by a certain stage dancer; dancing about when he was wearing it, he fell down and perished. With a man like this Cyrillus, he went on,
they set themselves up to judge and decide for the rest of the world. The influential party at the court made this an occasion for persuading the emperor not to summon the whole synod, for they were alarmed at the concord of the majority, but only ten leading men. Of these were Eustathius of Armenia, Basilius of Galatia, Silvanus of Tarsus, and Eleusius of Cyzicus.
On their arrival they urged the emperor that Eudoxius should be convicted of blasphemy and lawlessness. Constantius, however, schooled by the opposite party, replied that a decision must first be come to on matters concerning the faith, and that afterwards the case of Eudoxius should be enquired into. Basilius, relying on his former intimacy, ventured boldly to object to the emperor that he was attacking the apostolic decrees; but Constantius took this ill, and told Basilius to hold his tongue,
for to you, said he,
the disturbance of the churches is due. When Basilius was silenced, Eustathius intervened and said,
since, sir, you wish a decision to be come to on what concerns the faith, consider the blasphemies rashly uttered against the Only Begotten by Eudoxius, and as he spoke he produced the exposition of faith wherein, besides many other impieties, were found the following expressions:
Things that are spoken of in unlike terms are unlike in substance:
There is one God the Father of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things. Now the term
of whom is unlike the term
through whom; so the Son is unlike God the Father. Constantius ordered this exposition of the faith to be read, and was displeased with the blasphemy which it involved. He therefore asked Eudoxius if he had drawn it up. Eudoxius instantly repudiated the authorship, and said that it was written by Aetius. Now Aetius was he whom Leontius, in dread of the accusations of Flavianus and Diodorus, had formerly degraded from the diaconate. He had also been the supporter of Georgius, the treacherous foe of the Alexandrians, alike in his impious words and his unholy deeds. At the present time he was associated with Eunomius and Eudoxius; for, on the death of Leontius, when Eudoxius had laid violent hands on the episcopal throne of the church at Antioch, he returned from Egypt with Eunomius, and, as he found Eudoxius to be of the same way of thinking as himself, a sybarite in luxury as well as a heretic in faith, he chose Antioch as the most congenial place of abode, and both he and Eunomius were fast fixtures at the couches of Eudoxius. His highest ambition was to be a successful parasite, and he spent his whole time in going to gorge himself at one man's table or another's. The emperor had been told all this, and now ordered Aetius to be brought before him. On his appearance Constantius showed him the document in question and proceeded to enquire if he was the author of its language. Aetius, totally ignorant of what had taken place, and unaware of the drift of the enquiry, expected that he should win praise by confession, and owned that he was the author of the phrases in question. Then the emperor perceived the greatness of his iniquity, and immediately condemned him to exile and to be deported to a place in Phrygia. So Aetius reaped disgrace as the fruit of blasphemy, and was cast out of the palace. Eustathius then alleged that Eudoxius too held the same views, for that Aetius had shared his roof and his table, and had drawn up this blasphemous formula in submission to his judgement. In proof of his contention that Eudoxius was concerned in drawing up the document he urged the fact that no one had attributed it to Aetius except Eudoxius himself. To this the emperor enjoined that judges must not decide on conjecture, but are bound to make exact examination of the facts. Eustathius assented, and urged that Eudoxius should give proof of his dissent from the sentiments attributed to him by anathematizing the composition of Aetius. This suggestion the emperor very readily accepted, and gave his orders accordingly; but Eudoxius drew back, and employed many shifts to evade compliance. But when the emperor waxed angry and threatened to send him off to share the exile of Aetius, on the ground that he was a partner in the blasphemy so punished, he repudiated his own doctrine, though both then and afterwards he persistently maintained it. However, he in his turn protested against the Eustathians that it was their duty to condemn the word
Homoüsion as unscriptural.
Silvanus on the contrary pointed out that it was their duty to reject and expel from their holy assemblies the phrases
out of the non-existent and
of another substance, these terms being also unscriptural and found in the writings of neither prophets nor apostles. Constantius decided that this was right, and bade the Arians pronounce the condemnation. At first they persisted in refusing; but in the end, when they saw the emperor's wrath, they consented, though much against the grain, to condemn the terms Silvanus had put before them. But all the more earnestly they insisted on their demand for the condemnation of the
Homoüsion. But then with unanswerable logic Silvanus put both before the Arians and the emperor the truth that if God the Word is not of the non-Existent, He is not a Creature, and is not of another Substance. He is then of one Substance with God Who begot Him, as God of God and Light of Light, and has the same nature as the Begetter. This contention he urged with power and with truth, but not one of his hearers was convinced. The party of Acacius and Eudoxius raised a mighty uproar; the emperor was angered, and threatened expulsion from their churches. Thereupon Eleusius and Silvanus and the rest said that while authority to punish lay with the emperor, it was their province to decide on points of piety or impiety, and
we will not, they protested,
betray the doctrine of the Fathers.
Constantius ought to have admired both their wisdom and their courage, and their bold defence of the apostolic decrees, but he exiled them from their churches, and ordered others to be appointed in their place. Thereupon Eudoxius laid violent hands on the Church of Constantinople; and on the expulsion of Eleusius from Cyzicus, Eunomius was appointed in his place.
After these transactions the emperor ordered Aetius to be condemned by a formal Letter, and, in obedience to the command, his companions in iniquity condemned their own associate. Accordingly they wrote to Georgius, bishop of Alexandria, the letter about him to which I shall give a place in my history, in order to expose their wickedness, for they treated their friends and their foes precisely in the same way.
In consequence of the condemnation of Aetius by the Synod, on account of his unlawful and most offensive writings, he has been dealt with by the bishops in accordance with the canons of the church. He has been degraded from the diaconate and expelled from the Church, and our admonitions have gone forth that none are to read his unlawful epistles, but that on account of their unprofitable and worthless character they are to be cast aside. We have further appended an anathema on him, if he abides in his opinion, and on his supporters.
It would naturally have followed that all the bishops met together in the Synod should have felt detestation of, and approved the sentence delivered against, a man who is the author of offenses, disturbances and schisms, of agitation over all the world, and of rising of church against church. But in spite of our prayers, and against all our expectation, Seras, Stephanus, Heliodorus and Theophilus and their party have not voted with us, and have not even consented to subscribe the sentence delivered against him, although Seras charged the aforenamed Aetius with another instance of insane arrogance, alleging that he, with still bolder impudence, had sprung forward to declare that what God had concealed from the Apostles had been now revealed to him. Even after these wild and boastful words, reported by Seras about Aetius, the aforenamed bishops were not put out of countenance, nor could they be induced to vote with us on his condemnation. We however with much long suffering bore with them for a great length of time, now indignant, now beseeching, now importuning them to join with us and make the decision of the Synod unanimous; and we persevered long in the hope that they might hear and agree and give in. But when in spite of all this patience we could not shame them into acceptance of our declarations against the aforesaid offender, we counted the rule of the church more precious than the friendship of men, and pronounced against them a decree of excommunication, allowing them a period of six mouths for conversion, repentance, and the expression of a desire for union and harmony with the synod. If within the given time they should turn and accept agreement with their brethren and assent to the decrees about Aetius, we decided that they should be received into the church, to the recovery of their own authority in synods, and our affection. If however they obstinately persisted, and preferred human friendship to the canons of the church and our affection, then we judged them deposed from the rank of the bishops. If they suffer degradation it is necessary to appoint other bishops in their place, that the lawful church may be duly ordered and at unity with herself, while all the bishops of every nation by uttering the same doctrine with one mind and one counsel preserve the bond of love.
To acquaint you with the decree of the Synod we have sent these present to your reverence, and pray that you may abide by them, and by the grace of Christ rule the churches under you aright and in peace.
Eunomius in his writings praises Aetius, styles him a man of God, and honours him with many compliments. Yet he was at that time closely associated with the party by whom Aetius had been repudiated, and to them he owed his election to his bishopric.
Now the followers of Eudoxius and Acacius, who had assented to the decrees put forth at Nice in Thrace, already mentioned in this history, appointed other bishops in the churches of the adherents of Basilius and Eleusius in their stead. On other points I think it superfluous to write in detail. I purpose only to relate what concerns Eunomius.
For when Eunomius had seized on the see of Cyzicus in the lifetime of Eleusius, Eudoxius urged him to hide his opinions and not make them known to the party who were seeking a pretext to persecute him. Eudoxius was moved to offer this advice both by his knowledge that the diocese was sound in the faith and his experience of the anger manifested by Constantius against the party who asserted the only begotten Son of God to be a created being.
Let us said he to Eunomius
bide our time; when it comes we will preach what now we are keeping dark; educate the ignorant; and win over or compel or punish our opponents. Eunomius, yielding to these suggestions, propounded his impious doctrine under the shadow of obscurity. Those of his hearers who had been nurtured on the divine oracles saw clearly that his utterances concealed under their surface a foul fester of error.
But however distressed they were they considered it less the part of prudence than of rashness to make any open protest, so they assumed a mask of heretical heterodoxy, and paid a visit to the bishop at his private residence with the earnest request that he would have regard to the distress of men borne here and there by different doctrines, and would plainly expound the truth. Eunomius thus emboldened declared the sentiments which he secretly held. The deputation then went on to remark that it was unfair and indeed quite wrong for the whole of his diocese to be prevented from having their share of the truth. By these and similar arguments he was induced to lay bare his blasphemy in the public assemblies of the church. Then his opponents hurried with angry fervour to Constantinople; first they indicted him before Eudoxius, and when Eudoxius refused to see them, sought an audience of the emperor and made lamentation over the ruin their bishop was wreaking among them.
The sermons of Eunomius, they said,
are more impious than the blasphemies of Arius. The wrath of Constantius was roused, and he commanded Eudoxius to send for Eunomius, and, on his conviction, to strip him of his bishopric. Eudoxius, of course, though again and again importuned by the accusers, continued to delay taking action. Then once more they approached the emperor with vociferous complaints that Eudoxius had not obeyed the imperial commands in any single particular, and was perfectly indifferent to the delivery of an important city to the blasphemies of Eunomius. Then said Constantius to Eudoxius, if you do not fetch Eunomius and try him, and on conviction of the charges brought against him, punish him, I shall exile you. This threat frightened Eudoxius, so he wrote to Eunomius to escape from Cyzicus, and told him he had only himself to blame because he had not followed the hints given him. Eunomius accordingly withdrew in alarm, but he could not endure the disgrace, and endeavoured to fix the guilt of his betrayal on Eudoxius, maintaining that both he and Aetius had been cruelly treated. And from that time he set up a sect of his own for all the men who were of his way of thinking and condemned his betrayal, separated from Eudoxius and joined with Eunomius, whose name they bear up to this day. So Eunomius became the founder of a heresy, and added to the blasphemy of Arius by his own peculiar guilt. He set up a sect of his own because he was a slave to his ambition, as the facts distinctly prove. For when Aetius was condemned and exiled, Eunomius refused to accompany him, though he called him his master and a man of God, but remained closely associated with Eudoxius.
But when his turn came he paid the penalty of his iniquity; he did not submit to the vote of the synod, but began to ordain bishops and presbyters, though himself deprived of his episcopal rank. These then were the deeds done at Constantinople.
On war being waged against the Romans by Sapor King of Persia, Constantius mustered his forces and marched to Antioch. But the enemy were driven forth, not by the Roman army, but by Him whom the pious in the Roman host worshipped as their God. How the victory was won I shall now proceed to relate.
Nisibis, sometimes called Antiochia Mygdonia, lies on the confines of the realms of Persia and of Rome. In Nisibis Jacobus whom I named just now was at once bishop, guardian, and commander in chief. He was a man who shone with the grace of a truly apostolic character. His extraordinary and memorable miracles, which I have fully related in my religious history, I think it superfluous and irrelevant to enumerate again.
One however I will record because of the subject before us. The city which Jacobus ruled was now in possession of the Romans, and besieged by the Persian Army. The blockade was prolonged for seventy days.
Helepoles and many other engines were advanced to the walls. The town was begirt with a palisade and entrenchment, but still held out. The river Mygdonius flowing through the middle of the town, at last the Persians dammed its stream a considerable distance up, and increased the height of its bank on both sides so as to shut the waters in. When they saw that a great mass of water was collected and already beginning to overflow the dam, they suddenly launched it like an engine against the wall. The impact was tremendous; the bulwarks could not sustain it, but gave way and fell down. Just the same fate befell the other side of the circuit, through which the Mygdonius made its exit; it could not withstand the shock, and was carried away. No sooner did Sapor see this than he expected to capture the rest of the city, and for all that day he rested for the mud to dry and the river to become passable. Next day he attacked in full force, and looked to enter the city through the breaches that had been made. But he found the wall built up on both sides, and all his labour vain. For that holy man, through prayer, filled with valour both the troops and the rest of the townsfolk, and both built the walls, withstood the engines, and beat off the advancing foe. And all this he did without approaching the walls, but by beseeching the Lord of all within the church. Sapor, moreover, was not only astounded at the speed of the building of the walls but awed by another spectacle. For he saw standing on the battlements one of kingly mien and all ablaze with purple robe and crown. He supposed that this was the Roman emperor, and threatened his attendants with death for not having announced the imperial presence; but on their stoutly maintaining that their report had been a true one and that Constantius was at Antioch, he perceived the meaning of the vision and exclaimed
their God is fighting for the Romans. Then the wretched man in a rage flung a javelin into the air, though he knew that he could not hit a bodiless being, but unable to curb his passion. Therefore the excellent Ephraim (he is the best writer among the Syrians) besought the divine Jacobus to mount the wall to see the barbarians and to let fly at them the darts of his curse. So the divine man consented and climbed up into a tower but when he saw the innumerable host he discharged no other curse than to that mosquitoes and gnats might be sent forth upon them, so that by means of these tiny animals they might learn the might of the Protector of the Romans. On his prayer followed clouds of mosquitoes and gnats; they filled the hollow trunks of the elephants, and the ears and nostrils of horses and other animals. Finding the attack of these little creatures past endurance they broke their bridles, unseated their riders and threw the ranks into confusion. The Persians abandoned their camp and fled head-long. So the wretched prince learned by a slight and kindly chastisement the power of the God who protects the pious, and marched his army home again, reaping for all the harvest of the siege not triumph but disgrace.
At this time, Constantius was residing at Antioch. The Persian war was over; there had been a time of peace, and he once again gathered bishops together with the object of making them all deny both the formula
of one substance and also the formula
of different substance. On the death of Leontius, Eudoxius had seized the see of Antioch, but on his expulsion and illegal establishment, after many synods, at Constantinople, the church of Antioch had been left without a shepherd. Accordingly the assembled bishops, gathered in considerable numbers from every quarter, asserted that their primary obligation was to provide a pastor for the flock and that then with him they would deliberate on matters of faith. It fell out opportunely that the divine Meletius who was ruling a certain city of Armenia had been grieved with the insubordination of the people under his rule and was now living without occupation elsewhere. The Arian faction imagined that Meletius was of the same way of thinking as themselves, and an upholder of their doctrines. They therefore petitioned Constantius to commit to his hands the reins of the Antiochene church. Indeed in the hope of establishing their impiety there was no law that they did not fearlessly transgress; illegality was becoming the very foundation of their blasphemy; nor was this an isolated specimen of their irregular proceedings. On the other hand the maintainers of apostolic doctrine, who were perfectly well aware of the soundness of the great Meletius, and had clear knowledge of his stainless character and wealth of virtue, came to a common vote, and took measures to have their resolution written out and subscribed by all without delay. This document both parties as a bond of compromise entrusted to the safe keeping of a bishop who was a noble champion of the truth, Eusebius of Samosata. And when the great Meletius had received the imperial summons and arrived, forth to meet him came all the higher ranks of the priesthood, forth came all the other orders of the church, and the whole population of the city. There, too, were Jews and Gentiles all eager to see the great Meletius. Now the emperor had charged both Meletius and the rest who were able to speak to expound to the multitude the text
The Lord formed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old Proverbs 8:22, Septuagint, and he ordered skilled writers to take down on the spot what each man said, with the idea that in this manner their instruction would be more exact. First of all Georgius of Laodicea gave vent to his foul heresy. After him Acacius of Cæsarea propounded a doctrine of compromise far removed indeed from the blasphemy of the enemy, but not preserving the apostolic doctrine pure and undefiled. Then up rose the great Meletius and exhibited the unbending line of the canon of the faith, for using the truth as a carpenter does his rule he avoided excess and defect. Then the multitude broke into loud applause and besought him to give them a short summary of his teaching. Accordingly after showing three fingers, he withdrew two, left one, and uttered the memorable sentence,
In thought they are three but we speak as to one.
Against this teaching the men who had the plague of Arius in their hearts whetted their tongues, and started an ingenious slander, declaring that the divine Meletius was a Sabellian. Thus they persuaded the fickle sovereign who, like the well known Euripus, easily shifted his current now this way and now that, and induced him to relegate Meletius to his own home.
Euzoius, an open defender of Arian tenets, was promptly promoted to his place; the very man whom, then a deacon, the great Alexander had degraded at the same time as Arius. Now the part of the people who remained sound separated from the unsound and assembled in the apostolic church which is situated in the part of the city called the Palæa.
For thirty years indeed after the attack made upon the illustrious Eustathius they had gone on enduring the abomination of Arianism, in the expectation of some favourable change. But when they saw impiety on the increase, and men faithful to the apostolic doctrines both openly attacked and menaced by secret conspiracy, the divine Meletius in exile, and Euzoius the champion of heresy established as bishop in his place, they remembered the words spoken to Lot,
Escape for your life; and further the law of the gospel which plainly ordains
if your right eye offend you pluck it out and cast it from you. The Lord laid down the same law about both hand and foot, and added,
It is profitable for you that one of your members should perish and not that your whole body should be cast into hell.
Thus came about the division of the Church.
The admirable Eusebius mentioned above, who was entrusted with the common resolution, when he beheld the violation of the covenant, returned to his own see. Then certain men who were uneasy about the written document, persuaded Constantius to dispatch a messenger to recover it. Accordingly the emperor sent one of the officers who ride post with relays of horses, and bring communications with great speed. On his arrival he reported the imperial message, but,
I cannot, said the admirable Eusebius,
surrender the deed deposited with me till I am directed so to do by the whole assembly who gave it me. This reply was reported to the emperor. Boiling with rage he sent to Eusebius again and ordered him to give it up, with the further message that he had ordered his right hand to be cut off if he refused. But he only wrote this to terrify the bishop, for the courier who conveyed the dispatch had orders not to carry out the threat. But when the divine Eusebius opened the letter and saw the punishment which the emperor had threatened, he stretched out his right hand and his left, bidding the man cut off both.
The decree, said he,
which is a clear proof of Arian wickedness, I will not give up.
When Constantius had been informed of this courageous resolution he was struck with astonishment, and did not cease to admire it; for even foes are constrained by the greatness of bold deeds to admire their adversaries success.
At this time Constantius learned that Julian, whom he had declared Cæsar of Europe, was aiming at sovereignty, and mustering an army against his master. Therefore he set out from Syria, and died in Cilicia. Nor had he the helper whom his Father had left him; for he had not kept intact the inheritance of his Father's piety, and so bitterly bewailed his change of faith.
Source. Translated by Blomfield Jackson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/27022.htm>.
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