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NEXT to the conversion of Constantine to Christianity, the calling of the Council of Nicaea was the event of his reign most productive of important consequences to the Church. We might, therefore, reasonably expect to find in the pages of the Historian of the Church and the Panegyrist of the Emperor, a full account of the causes which gave occasion to it, of the discussions which took place during its continuance, and of the decrees by which the assembled Fathers decided the disputed points and settled the Christian Creed. If, however, we turn to the pages of Eusebius with this expectation, we shall be disappointed. The subject was one on which he evidently felt little disposition to dwell, whether from dissatisfaction with the course which the proceedings took, or with the Confession of Faith which the Council finally propounded. Nothing can be more meager than his account. We must, therefore, draw our information from other sources, of which the principal are the writings of Athanasius, who, though he attended the Council only as the deacon of the Bishop of Alexandria, spent his life in the uncompromising assertion of its decrees; and the works of three historians, one a bishop, Theodoret, the other two laymen, Socrates, ands Sozomen, who lived in the fifth century.

According to Socrates, Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, in discoursing on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity before the presbyters and other clergy, insisted so strongly on the Unity in Trinity, that Arius, a man skilled in dialectics, charged him with introducing Sabellianism, and running into the opposite extreme, contended that, if the Father begat the Son, He who was begotten had a commencement of subsistence: that there was consequently a time when the Son was not; and He derived His substance from things which were not. Sozomen’s account differs in some respect from that of Socrates. According to him, Arius caused the disturbance of the peace of the Church by broaching his opinions: and Alexander was charged with remissness, because he did not immediately notice them.

He then summoned the two parties before him, and required them to state their respective arguments, in hearing which he exhibited great impartiality: but at last decided in favor of those who held the Consubstantiality and Co-eternity of the Son. Mr. Newman adopts the account of Alexander’s remissness, and says that much mischief ensued from his misplaced meekness. Yet it may be urged in his behalf, that the questions raised by Arius were new, and turned upon points beyond the reach of human comprehension: points, upon which a man, conscious of his own fallibility, might well pause before he pronounced an authoritative decision. It may be doubted also, whether Alexander's meekness did not conciliate many who might have been alienated from him, if he had at once assumed a peremptory and dogmatic tone. Arius appears to have been a man of unstable mind. He at first attached himself to Meletius, of whom we shall hear more in the account of the proceedings of the Council, and whom he afterwards quitted. He was then ordained deacon by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria; but when Meletius was excommunicated, again joined him, and was involved in the same sentence of excommunication. After the Martyrdom of Peter, having asked pardon for his offence, he was permitted by Achillas, who succeeded Peter, to officiate. He was afterwards admitted to the presbyterate, and greatly esteemed by Alexander. Epiphanius describes him as tall in stature, with a downcast look, his figure composed like that of a subtle serpent, to deceive the guileless by his crafty exterior; his dress was simple; his address soft and smooth, calculated to persuade and attract, so that he had drawn away seven hundred virgins from the Church to his party.

The flame kindled by the dissensions at Alexandria quickly spread through the whole of Egypt, Libya, and the Upper Thebais, and extended itself to other provinces. Bishops, according to the lively description of Eusebius, were engaged in wordy warfare with bishops: the people were divided into parties; while the Heathen, taking advantage of the folly and madness of the Christians, made the most awful mysteries of Faith subjects of profane ridicule in the theatre. Several bishops sided with Arius, among them Eusebius, formerly Bishop of Berytus, then of Nicomedia in Bithynia, to whom he addressed a letter, in which he complained of being persecuted by Alexander; and stated that Eusebius of Caesarea, Theodotus of Laodicea, Paulinus of Tyre, Athanasius of Anazarbus, Gregory of Berytus, Aetius of Lydda, indeed all the Eastern bishops, with the exception of Philogonius, Hellanicus, and Macarius, whom he styles heretical, uninstructed men, maintained that God, being Himself unoriginate, existed before the Son. He himself maintained that the Son was not ingenerate, nor in any respect a part of the Ingenerate, nor from any subject matter, but from things which were not: He subsisted by the will and counsel (of the Father) before all times and ages, perfect God, only begotten, unchangeable; and He was not, before He was begotten, or created, or predestined, or founded. For holding this opinion, Arius complains that he was persecuted.

To this letter a Eusebius replied in one of encouragement, in which he expressed his entire concurrence with the opinions of Arius; saying, that what is made could not be before it was made, and must have a beginning of existence. He also addressed a letter to Paulinus to declare himself, and to write to Alexander, with whom his authority would have great weight. Finding that Arius and his friends were thus active in circulating their sentiments, Alexander, as we have seen, was roused to anger, and wrote letters to the bishops of the Universal Church to put them on their guard against the misrepresentations of Eusebius and the other supporters of the Arian cause.

He also addressed a letter to Alexander, Bishop of Constantinople, in which he entered fully into the tenets of Arius, whom he charges with being actu­ated by the desire of power. He describes the Arians as selecting those passages of Scripture which speak of the humiliation of Christ, and passing over those which declare His Godhead, and thus insidiously instilling their opinions into the minds of those who frequented their assemblies. Ebion, he says, Artemas, and Paul of Samosata were the forerunners of Arius ; but he derived his doctrine immediately from Lucian, who had adopted the cause of Paul, and had remained out of the communion of the Church during the incumbency of three suc­cessive bishops of Antioch. Alexander adds, that three Syrian Bishops, supposed by Valesius to be Eusebius of Caesarea, Theodotus, and Paulinus, had espoused the cause of Arius, and confirmed him in his error. In the encyclical letter, Alexander speaks of the Arians as transgressors of the law, and authors of an apostasy which might be justly called the forerunner of Antichrist.

In the same letter he gives the following account of the opinions of Arius and his followers. They affirmed “that God was not always a Father: that there was a time when He was not a Father: that the Word of God did not always exist, but was made out of things which were not. The self-existing God having made Him who was not out of things which were not, there was consequently a time when He did not exist. The Son is a Being created and made; neither is He like in essence to the Father; nor the true Word of the Father by nature, nor His true Wisdom, but one of the things made and generated. The titles 'Word and Wisdom' are improperly applied to Him, inasmuch as He Himself was made by the proper Word (or Reason) of God, and by the Wisdom in God, in which God made both Him and all things. He is, therefore, by nature liable to change, like all other rational creatures. The Word is also extraneous to and separate from the essence of God. Moreover, the Father is ineffable by the Son; for the Son neither perfectly nor accurately knows the Father, nor can perfectly see Him. The Son does not even know His own essence as it is; for He was made for our sakes, that God might use Him as an instrument in creating us: He would not have subsisted if God had not thought fit to create us. The Arians do not appear to have shrunk from the consequences of their opinions; for when asked whether the Word of God might be perverted as the devil was, they answered in the affirmative, since He is by nature liable to change”.

We learn from the letter not only the tenets of Arius, but also the manner in which Alexander refuted them by appealing to Scripture.

To the assertion that there was a time when the Word was not, Alexander opposed John 1. 1: “In the beginning was the Word”.

To the assertion that the Son was one of the things made, the title of Only-Begotten, and the declaration of St. John, 1. 3, that all things were made by Him. He who was the Maker could not be on a level with the things which He made, nor could He who was the Only-Begotten be numbered with them.

To the assertion that the Word of God was made from things that were not, Alexander opposed Psalm 14. 1; 110. 3.

To the assertion that the Son is unlike in essence to the Father, Colossians 1. 15, where the Son is called the Image; and Hebrews 1. 3, where He is called the radiance of the glory of the Father; and John 14. 9, where Christ says to Philip, “He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father”.

How, Alexander asks, if the Son is the Word or Reason and Wisdom of God, can it be said that there was a time when He was not? for that were to say that God was then without the Word or Reason and without Wisdom. How can He be liable to variation or change, who says of Himself, “I am in the Father and the Father in Me” (John 14. 10); and “I and the Father are one” (John 10. 30); and of whom it is said by the prophet, “I am, and I change not?” Alexander refers also to Hebrews 12. 13; “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever”.

To the assertion that the Son was made for us, Alexander opposes 1 Cor. 8. 6, where St. Paul says that all things are by Him: and to the assertion that He did not perfectly know the Father, the declaration of Christ Himself, John 10. 15; “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father”. If the Son's knowledge of the Father is imperfect, so must also be the Father's knowledge of the Son; such is the impiety to which the assertions of Arius lead.

From the foregoing extracts from the Encyclical Letter of Alexander, the reader will be able to form some idea of the points on which the controversy turned, and of the manner in which it was conducted. But as this representation of the opinions of the Arians is made by an adversary, he may wish to know whether they admitted its correctness; I will, therefore, add I the Profession of Faith which they addressed to Alexander. They state in it, that God begat His Only-Begotten Son before eternal times, and by Him made the ages and the universe; that God begat Him not in appearance, but in truth, unchangeable and unalterable because He so willed; perfect creature of God, but not as one of the creatures; offspring of God, but not as one of things generated. They then reject the notions of Valentines, Manichoeus, Sabellius, and Hieracas, and a notion which they assert to have been publicly condemned by Alexander—that the Son, having previously existed, was generated or newly created into a Son. They proceed to state their own belief to be, that the Son was created by the “will of God before times and ages”; that He received life and being from the Father, the Father substantially communicating to Him His own glory; not that the Father, in giving Him the inheritance of all things, deprived Himself of that which He has uningenerately in Himself, inasmuch as He is the fountain of all things. There are, therefore, three Subsistences: God, the cause of all things, alone, without a beginning, or unoriginate. The Son, begotten by the Father, snot in time, created and founded before the ages, was not before He was begotten; but begotten, not in time, before all things, alone subsisted by the Father; for He is neither eternal, nor co-eternal, nor co-ingenerate with the Father; nor has He existence together with the Father—as is the language of some who, in speaking of their relation to each other, introduce two ingenerate principles or origins. But as God is the One and the origin of all things, He is before all things, and, therefore, before the Son. As, therefore, the Son has being from the Father, and glory, and life, and all things are delivered to Him, God is His origin or principle, and being His God and before Him, has dominion over Him. They who interpret the expressions from Him, and from the womb, and I came forth from the Father, and I am come, as implying a part of the same substance, or an emission, make the Father compounded, divisible, liable to alteration, corporeal; and, as far as in them lies, subject the incorporeal God to the accidents of the body.

To this letter, as given by Epiphanius, are affixed the names of Arius, Ethales, Achilles, Carponas, Sarmates, another Arius, presbyters; Euzoius, Lucius, Julius, Menas, Helladius, Gaius, deacons; Secundus, Bishop of Pentapolis, Theonas, a Libyan, and Pistus, whom the Arians afterwards made Bishop of Alexandria.

Alexander now, with the concurrence of nearly one hundred bishops of Egypt and Libya, proceeded to deprive Arius and his followers. According to Epiphanius, Arius, after his deprivation, went into Palestine, and afterwards to Nicomedia, to confer with Eusebius, who warmly espoused his cause, and addressed letters both to Alexander, strongly urging that prelate to receive Arius into communion, and to the brethren at Alexandria, exhorting them not to side with Alexander. In order to give effect to his remonstrances, he called a synod in Bithynia, which entered into his views. Alexander, however, persevered in his resolution not to receive Arius. The mutual exasperation of the parties continually increased, and the greatest confusion prevailed; the laity, as well as the clergy, taking part violently in the contest.

It happened unhappily that at this time the Alexandrian Church was distracted by another schism, the Meletian, which, though at first wholly unconnected with the Arian controversy, was at last mixed up with it, and exercised a very prejudicial influence on the personal fortunes of Athanasius. During the episcopate of Peter, who suffered martyrdom in the persecution of Diocletian, Meletius, Bishop of Lycopolis, in Egypt, was deposed because he had offered sacrifice. Having induced many to join him, he formed a sect, and was in a state of opposition to the Church when the Arian controversy arose. Such is the account given by Athanasius, who charges the Meletians with having evinced hostility towards his predecessors Peter, Achillas, and Alexander, as well as towards himself.

Epiphanius, however, ascribes the origin of the schism to a cause much less discreditable to Meletius. According to him, Peter and Meletius were fellow-sufferers during the persecution, and differed respecting the mode of dealing with the clergy, who had fallen away during its continuance. Meletius contended that they should be prevented, not only from resuming their clerical functions, but even from being present at the assemblies for public worship, until they had given satisfactory proof of their penitence. Peter advised a more lenient course. A division in consequence took place among the clergy and monks, and the majority sided with Meletius.

Peter suffered martyrdom, and was succeeded by Alexander. Meletius was banished to the mines, but afterwards returned, and ordained bishops, priests, and deacons, and built churches for his followers, who called themselves the Church of the Martyrs, in opposition to the followers of Peter, who called themselves the Catholic Church. After the death of Meletius, who lived on friendly terms with Alexander, the schism continued; and Alexander, wishing to put an end to it, forbade the Meletians to hold their assemblies. They sent a deputation to Constantinople, at the head of which was John, their bishop, and Callinicus, Bishop of Pelusium, to complain of Alexander, and to obtain permission to resume their meetings. Paphnutius, the anachorite, was also of the party. They at first could not gain access to the emperor: but during their stay at Nicomedia, whither they followed Constantine, they were introduced to Eusebius, and through his influence at court accomplished the object of their mission. Eusebius, however, exacted as the condition of his assistance, that they should receive Arius into communion. Such, according to Epi­phanius, was the origin of the union of the Meletians and Arians, which he deplores as having given consistency and strength to the Arian party, many of the Meletians having been induced to depart from the true faith and adopt heretical tenets. Petavius and the Benedictine editor of Athanasius treat this narrative as a fiction of one of the Meletian party, who succeeded in imposing upon Epiphanius. It contains, undoubtedly, chronological and other errors; but when it is compared with the account given by Sozomen, the difference in substance is not very great. It is certain that Meletius was not charged at Nicaea with holding any heretical doctrine. The Council, as we shall hereafter see, only determined that he and those who had been ordained by him should cease to exercise their functions, until vacancies should occur in the number of the clergy ordained by Peter and Alexander, into whose places they were to be substituted. Meletius, shortly before his death, consecrated John as his successor, and thus the schism was revived.

When the news of the unhappy divisions prevailing in the Alexandrian Church reached the ears of Constantine, he was deeply afflicted, and immediately dispatched Hosius, Bishop of Corduba, in whom he placed the greatest confidence, with a letter addressed to Alexander and Arius, in the hope of restoring peace between them. He began with stating, that in his administration of the empire he had a twofold object in view—to bring all men to an agreement in opinion respecting the Deity, and to heal the diseases under which the world had labored during the reign of his predecessors. After, therefore, that he had accomplished the latter object by the defeat of Licinius, he turned his attention to the former; and hearing that a schism had taken place in Africa, he determined to employ the instrumentality of some of the bishops of the East—the quarter from which the light of true religion first shone forth—in putting an end to the dissensions. What then was his surprise, his grief to hear, that those very Eastern bishops were divided among themselves on a slight and unimportant question!

They, by whose aid he intended to heal others, were themselves in need of a physician. The bishop, it appeared, had asked the opinion of the presbyters on some passage of the law, or rather some idle question, and Arius had returned an ill-considered answer. Thence a difference had arisen: all communion had ceased between them; and the people were divided into two parties, some siding with one, some with the other. Let them mutually forgive each other, and live in unity. Such questions ought neither to be asked nor answered: if discussed for the purpose of intellectual exercise, they ought not to be publicly propounded. For who is sufficient to comprehend those divine mysteries, or worthily to express them if comprehended? There is always danger lest the disputants should be unable clearly to explain the matter proposed; or that the hearers, through slowness of understanding, should misapprehend what is said; and that occasion should thus be given to blasphemy and schism. It was the more incumbent upon them to comply with his exhortation to concord, and to put an end to their disputes, because in all that is essential they were of one mind. They differed only about unimportant matters, in which freedom of opinion should be allowed. Let each enjoy his own opinion in silence, and not run the hazard of disturbing the peace of the Church. Constantine concludes with stating, that he had arrived at Nicomedia with the intent of proceeding to Alexandria, when the news of the schism reached him, and diverted him from his design: he was unwilling to be an eye-witness of dissensions of which he had never anticipated the possibility. “Give me back”, he says, “my peaceful days, my nights devoid of anxiety; put an end to your disputes, and thus open to me the way to the East; be reconciled to each other, and enable the people to rejoice and give thanks to God for the re-establishment of concord and liberty”. It was to be expected that Gibbon would find much to approve, and Mr. Newman much to disapprove in this letter.

The latter particularly censures the Emperor for supposing, that an uninstructed individual like himself, who had not even received the grace of Baptism, could discriminate between great and little questions in theology. But the letter expresses sentiments which would naturally arise in the mind of a person in Constantine’s position. “I have exercised”, he would say, “the power with which Providence has entrusted me for the benefit of the Christians; I have relieved them from the fear of persecution, and have not only protected them in the exercise of their religion, but have conferred upon them wealth and honor. I was, therefore, entitled to expect that they at least would not disturb the peace of my empire. But I am disappointed: no sooner are they freed from external enemies, than they break out into violent dissensions among themselves; and that too about a question, which even the disputants confess to be beyond the reach of human comprehension”. Constantine might be an incompetent judge of theological controversy; but he certainly was justified in hoping, that it would be carried on between Christians in a Christian spirit, in a spirit of mutual charity. The Emperor’s conciliatory letter, though enforced by the personal exertions and influence of Hosius, failed to produce the desired effect; and the dissensions quickly spread throughout all the Eastern provinces. In addition also to the Meletian and Arian controversies, that respecting the observance of Easter still continued to divide the members of the Church. It appears from Eusebius, that in the time of Irenaeus, the Asiatic Churches terminated the Lent fast on the day on which the Jews kept their Passover, that is, on the fourteenth day of the month, whatever the clay of the week on which it might fall. They did this, as appears from the letter of Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, on the ground that the custom had been handed down from St. John. All the other Churches of Christendom continued the fast till the Sunday after the Jewish Passover, and then celebrated Easter. Victor, Bishop of Rome, in his zeal for uniformity, threatened to excommunicate the Asiatic Churches; but was restrained by the remonstrances of Irenaeus. If we may rely on the authority of a letter of Constantine given by Socrates, the Asiatic Churches had conformed to the general custom before the Council of Nicaea. He includes, however, those of Cilicia in the number, respecting which, as well as those of Syria and Mesopotamia, Athanasius expressly says that they followed the Jewish custom. Mr. Newman supposes, that the Syrians were induced to follow it by Paul of Samosata, who was under the influence of Zenobia, a Jewess, or at least a patroness of the Jews. There is no reason, however, for supposing, that the QuartoDecimans adopted Paul's tenets; no charge of holding erroneous doctrine was brought against them at the Council; and according to the letter of Polycrates the difference of practice occasioned no interruption of communion. Origen also says, that those of his day agreed in all respects with the Apostolic tradition.

The Emperor, finding that his attempts at reconciling the adherents of Alexander and Arius were wholly unavailing, determined to assemble a general council, in order to heal the divisions of the Church by settling authoritatively the different questions by which it was agitated. With this view, he summoned the bishops from every part of the empire to meet at Nicaea in Bithynia, furnishing them with the means of conveyance at the public expense. In obedience to this summons, more than two hundred and fifty bishops assembled at the place appointed, with an innumerable company of priests and deacons. The different and distant countries from which they came, naturally recall to the recollection of Eusebius the description in the Book of Acts, of the multitude assembled at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. But, in the estimation of the historian, the comparison was greatly in favor of the Council, inasmuch as it was composed entirely of Ministers of God, whom he compares to a crown of beautiful flowers, collected by the Emperor in the bond of peace, as an offering of gratitude to his Savior, who had enabled him to triumph over all his enemies. Some of these ministers were distinguished for their wisdom; some for their gravity and enduring patience; some for their moderation; some were held in honor for their length of days; some were in the flower of their age, and in the full vigor of their intellect.

Socrates has particularly mentioned three bishops who were summoned by Constantine to Nicaea; whether he selected them for the purpose of proving the incorrectness of Sabinus’ assertion, given below, he does not say. One was the Novatian Bishop of Constantinople, named Acesius, who expressed his assent to the Confession of Faith, and to the decree respecting Easter, which were finally propounded by the Council. The Emperor, therefore, asked him, why he was not in communion with the Church, as he agreed with it on the two points determined at the Council? His answer was, that he differed from it on the question, whether they who committed the sin described in Scripture as unto death, ought ever to be re-admitted to the communion of the Church? he holding that they ought not, but ought to be exhorted to repent, and to hope for the remission of their sins, not from the priests, but from God, who alone had power to remit and to pardon them. Constantine, thinking this a very insufficient ground of separation, said, “Take a ladder, Acesius, and climb up by yourself to heaven”.

Another bishop mentioned by Socrates is Paphnutius from the Upper Thebais: Socrates says that he wrought miracles; that he was deprived of an eye in the persecution, and was highly esteemed by Constantine, who frequently sent for him and kissed the socket out of which the eye had been cut.

When it was proposed in the Council that bishops, presbyters, and deacons should be forbidden to cohabit with the wives whom they had married while laymen, Paphnutius resisted the proposal, telling those who urged it, that they would injure the Church by imposing so heavy a yoke on the clergy: that cohabitation with a lawful wife is chastity; and that it was sufficient to adhere to the ancient tra­dition, which forbade the clergy to marry after they had taken orders. His advice prevailed.

The third bishop mentioned by Socrates is Spyridion, Bishop of Trimethus in Cyprus, who was a shepherd, and according to Sozomen was married and had children. After his advancement to the bishopric he continued to tend his sheep. Socrates tells two marvelous stories respecting him: one relating to the manner in which some thieves, who came to steal his sheep, were by an invisible Power bound to the sheep-pens; the other to the temporary resuscitation of his daughter from the dead, in consequence of his prayers, for the purpose of pointing out where she had deposited a costly ornament, which had been consigned to her care. Sozomen adds other stories respecting him.

Constantine repaired to Nicaea, after he had celebrated his last triumph over Licinius. Besides the bishops who were summoned, other persons appear to have been attracted thither for the purpose of showing their skill in dialectics, and to have passed the time previous to the meeting of the Council in discussions, calculated, according to Socrates, rather to amuse than to edify, until they were at last silenced by a layman, who had been a Confessor in the persecution, and who reminded them that Christ came not to teach dialectics, but to inculcate faith and good works. There has unhappily been scarcely any age of the Church in which its members have not required to be reminded of this truth.

On the day appointed for the meeting of the Council, the members having taken each his allotted seat, Constantine made his entry with great pomp: his body, according to the historian, arrayed in a purple robe sparkling with gold and precious stones, his soul clothed with piety and the fear of God. His deep humility was evinced by his downcast eyes, by the blush upon his cheek, by his walk and gait. At the signal of his approach, all arose; and he, proceeding to the first row of seats, stood for a while in the midst; nor did he seat himself in the low chair prepared for him, until the bishops had by a nod, signified that he was so to do: afterwards they also seated themselves. The bishop, then, who sat nearest to him on the right hand arose, and in a speech addressed to him, gave thanks to God on his account. All eyes were then directed to the Emperor, who rose, and in a short speech exhorted the assembled bishops not to allow the enemy to mar the happiness which they enjoyed, in consequence of the removal of their persecutors from the earth. The internal divisions of the Church were a source of greater trouble and grief to him than any foreign war. He exhorted them, therefore, as his friends, as ministers of God, as good servants of their com­mon Master and Savior, to lose no time in removing every cause of contention, and loosing every band of controversy, by obeying the laws of peace. So would they do that which was acceptable to God, the Lord of all, and confer an inestimable favor on himself, their fellow-servant. This exhortation to concord appears to have been far from unnecessary.

The bishops at once broke out into mutual accusations, exhibited charges in writing against each other, and displayed so much bitterness of spirit, that the Emperor, though, according to Sozomen, he professed his incompetency to decide disputes between ecclesiastics, was obliged not only to mediate between them, but even to address himself to them severally; till at length, by exhorting some, by persuading others, and by praising those who spoke well, he succeeded in bringing them to an agreement in opinion. He also directed the written accusations which they had preferred against each other to be burned; rightly judging that the preservation of such documents could not redound to the credit and honor either of the individuals or of the Church.

Gibbon observes very truly, that the transactions of the Council of Nicaea are related by the ancients, not only in a partial, but in a very imperfect manner; and we must join in his regret, that no such picture as Fra Paolo would have drawn can now be recovered. Sozomen tells us that, before the meeting of the Council, the bishops met among themselves, and sent for Arius and discussed the points in dispute; some, those especially who were simple in their life and conversation, and embraced the faith of Christ without entering into curious enquiries, contending, that no innovation ought to be made in the creed which had been handed down from the beginning: others, that the ancient opinions were not to be implicitly received without examination. He adds, that many of the bishops, and of the ecclesiastics who accompanied them, distinguished themselves by their skill in disputation, and attracted the notice of the Emperor and of the court; among them Athanasius, then the Deacon of Alexander. No specimens, known, of their controversial ability and eloquence have been preserved, excepting those contained in the works of Athanasius. We know only, that the cause of Arius was chiefly maintained by Eusebius of Nicomedia, Theognius of Nicaea, and Maris of Chalcedon, in Bithynia; while the defence of the Catholic cause rested principally on Athanasius, who was supported by Marcellus of Ancyra and Asclepas of Gaza. According to Athanasius, the Catholics were so triumphant in the argument, that they reduced their opponents to silence. This is certain, that the result of the contest was in their favor. The Council adopted a creed which was set forth by Hosius, and pronounced the condemnation of Arius. The creed set forth by Hosius was as follows.

“We believe in one God, Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, only-begotten of the Father, that is of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father; by whom all things were made, both in heaven and earth; who for us men and for our salvation came down, and was incarnate, and was made man, and suffered, and rose again on the third day, and ascended into heaven, and shall come again to judge the quick and the dead; and (we believe) in the Holy Ghost. But the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church anathematizes those who say that there was a time when the Son of God was not; that He was not before He was begotten; that He was made from things which were not; that He is of another substance or essence; that He was created and is liable to change”.

According to Socrates, all the bishops present subscribed this Confession of Faith, with the exception of five: according to Sozomen, seventeen at first hesitated, but the greater portion of them afterwards subscribed. The five mentioned by Socrates are a Eusebius of Nicomedia, Theognius, Maris, Theonas, and Secundus. They objected to the word Omooússius, co-essential or consubstantial, contending that whatever is co-essential with any thing comes from it either, by emission or being thrown out, as a branch from the root; or by efflux, as children from their father; or by division, as bits of gold from a mass; and that none of these modes of derivation could be predicated of the Son. They, together with Arius, were excommunicated by the synod; and Eusebius and Theognius were involved in the sentence of banishment pronounced by Constantine against Arius, and were deprived of their bishoprics. The Council also condemned a work of Arius, entitled Thalia, in which he set forth his opinions in verse, and from which Athanasius gives several extracts. Athanasius accuses him of imitating in the effeminate character of his metre the Egyptian Sotades. The Oxford annotator on the works of Athanasius supposes him to have written in verse in order to popularize his heresy; and compares his proceeding to that of some modern sectaries, who sing their hymns to popular airs. Eusebius of Caesarea was one of those who hesitated to subscribe. In a letter which he addressed to the members of his own Church he states, that he himself proposed a Confession of Faith, which the Emperor approved and declared to be in accordance with his own opinions, and wished the other bishops to subscribe; with the insertion, however, of the word Omooússius, which was to be understood, not in the sense of any bodily affection, as implying subsistence by division or abscission from the Father, but in a divine and ineffable sense; since that which is im­material and an object of the intellect and incorporeal cannot be subject to any bodily affection. The whole letter is of an apologetic character, and implies a consciousness on the part of the writer that his subscription to the Nicene Creed required explanation, as if there were expressions in it not in perfect agreement with his former teaching. 

He states, therefore, that the different expressions were carefully weighed and canvassed; and gives his reasons for assenting to the word Omooússius, and to the expression “begotten, not made”; as well as for concurring in the anathema at the end. He had never, he says, himself used the expressions condemned; nor are they to be found in Scripture. I have noticed the very meager account given by him of the proceedings of the synod. The preference shown to the Confession of Faith finally adopted over his own, and a consciousness that in subscribing he had in some measure compromised his own opinions, may have contributed to indispose him to dwell on the subject.

The part which Eusebius took in the Arian controversy has caused both his integrity and his orthodoxy to be called in question. I shall content myself with observing that he was evidently regarded with suspicion and dislike by the Catholics, and that it is consequently necessary to receive their statements respecting him with some allowance. The Egyptian bishops charged him in their Encyclical Letter with having offered sacrifice during the persecution; and Epiphanius tells us that this charge was openly brought against him at the Council of Tyre by Potamo, Bishop of Heraclea. Athanasius also accuses him of having affirmed, in a letter to Euphratio, that Christ is not true God. Yet we have seen that he subscribed, though perhaps reluctantly, the declaration that the Son is Omooússius with the Father; a subscription which, if sincerely made, seems to imply a recognition of the essential Divinity of the Son.

Perhaps the Creed which he proposed to the Council may give us some insight into the real nature of his opinions. It is as follows:

“We believe in one God, Father Almighty, Maker of all things, visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God of God, Light of Light, Life of Life, the only-begotten Son, the first-begotten of every creature, begotten of the Father before all ages, by whom all things were made; who for our salvation was incarnate, and lived among men; who suffered, and rose again the third day, and ascended to the Father, and shall come again in glory to judge both the quick and the dead. We believe also in one Holy Ghost. Each of them we believe to be and to subsist—the Father truly Father, the Son truly Son, the Holy Ghost truly Holy Ghost; as our Lord, when He sent forth his Apostles to preach, said: Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”.

Mr. Newman says of this Creed, that, though the terms were orthodox, and would have satisfactorily answered the purposes of a test if the existing questions had never been agitated, and were consistent with certain producible statements of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, they were irrelevant at a time when evasions had been found for them all and triumphantly proclaimed. He supposes it to have been drawn up for the purpose of avoiding a test which the Arians had committed themselves in condemning, inasmuch as Eusebius of Nicomedia had in the beginning of the controversy declared that the Son was not of the same nature of the Father. If this was the object of Eusebius, the Emperor completely frustrated it by insisting on the insertion of the word Omooússius.

In his Notes on the Letter, in the Oxford translation of Athanasius, Mr. Newman has carefully pointed out the artifices by which he supposes Eusebius to have evaded the full force of the words which he consented to use. Eusebius admitted that the Son was One Thing with God but not as a part; he seems to have added this qualification in order to guard against the notion that he supposed the Divine Essence to be divisible. Mr. Newman, however, doubts whether he admitted it at all. In like manner, though he adopted the word Omooússius, yet Mr. Newman infers from the explanation which he gave of the sense in which he understood it, that he did believe, not in a oneness of substance, but in two substances. 

In his History of the Arians Mr. Newman has said that there is, in the writings of Eusebius, little which fixes upon him any charge beyond that of an attachment to the Platonic phraseology; and that had he not connected himself with the Arian party, it would have been unjust to accuse him of heresy. In the interval between the publication of that work and of the Notes on Athanasius, his faculty of detecting heresy appears to have become more acute. The opinions of Eusebius may be collected from the second chapter of the first book of his Ecclesiastical History, in which he treats of the pre-existence and Divinity of Christ; and they appear to have been in accordance with those of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, who held that the Word existed with the Father from eternity, being personally distinct, but that He was begotten in order to create the world; the generation of which they spoke was a generation in time, not from eternity. The reluctance of Eusebius to subscribe to the word Omooússius may be partly ascribed to his belief that it savored of Sabellianism; he knew that it had been rejected by the Council of Antioch, by which Paul of Samosata was condemned.

The Council, before it separated, addressed a letter to the Church of Alexandria, and to the brethren in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, to inform them of the questions which had been discussed, and of the manner in which they had been determined. The opinions of Arius had first been condemned and himself excommunicated, together with Theonas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais, whom lie had infected with his errors.

The letter of the Council goes on to say, that the case of Meletius was next considered and determined; that he was allowed to retain the title of bishop, but was restrained from laying on hands in his own city, and from visiting any other place or city for the purpose. That they who had been ordained by him were to receive a more regular ordination, and to be admitted to communion on the condition that they should retain their honor and ministry, but be second in all things to those whom Alexander had ordained, and should not possess the power of doing any ecclesiastical act without the consent of the bishops subject to Alexander’s jurisdiction. In the event, however, of the death of any of the Catholic ministers they might take the vacant places, if they were deemed worthy and chosen by the laity with the approval of the Bishop of Alexandria. Meletius was also required to give in a list of those whom he had ordained. Athanasius appears to have been opposed to this arrangement, which could scarcely fail to lead to disputes. The Meletian presbyters would be desirous to resume their functions, and would not be content to wait until a vacancy occurred; and, on the other hand, when it did occur, the Catholics would resist the introduction of the Meletian claimant. There is no doubt that one of the objects of the Meletians, in uniting themselves to the Arians, was to reestablish themselves in the possession of their churches.

The letter next congratulates the bishops to whom it is addressed on the settlement of the Paschal controversy. The decision of the Council was that Easter was to be celebrated, not according to the reckoning of the Jews, but according to that in general use throughout the Christian world. Constantine, who took an active part in the discussion, argued that Christians ought not in any thing to follow the customs of the impious race which put Christ to death. It is worthy of observation that Eusebius, omitting all mention of the Decree upon the most important matter which occasioned the assembling of the Council—the controversy between Alexander and Arius—contents himself with inserting the letter in which Constantine announced to the bishops the decision upon the Paschal question. The omission can only be accounted for on the supposition that he was dissatisfied with the determination of the Council.

The letter concludes with an exhortation to the Alexandrians, to receive with due honor Alexander, who had undergone great labor for the peace of the Church; and to join with them in praying that the decrees of the Council might remain unaltered.

A record was made of all the points determined by the Council, and signed by all the bishops. The Emperor, before he dismissed them to their several sees, invited them to a splendid banquet, which, to borrow the language of his panegyrist, afforded a lively representation of the Kingdom of Christ, and appeared rather a dream than a reality. He distributed among them presents according to their different ranks and merits; and addressed them in a speech, in which he strongly inculcated the necessity of concord; warning them not to give way to envious feelings against those of their brethren who enjoyed a higher reputation for wisdom and eloquence than themselves; and at the same time cautioning all who possessed those endowments, not to treat their inferiors with contempt. He especially exhorted all to avoid contentions among themselves, lest they should render the Divine law a subject of ridicule to those who were inclined to blaspheme. He then proceeded to propound his views respecting the course to be taken in order to convert men to Christianity. Pains must be taken to convince them, that the worldly condition of a Christian is one to be desired. We must not trust to the force of reason alone, since few love truth for itself. As a physician varies his remedies according to each particular case, so we must vary our modes of conversion according to the tempers of individuals. Some are won by the prospect of obtaining the means of subsistence; others of gaining influence with the great: some by courtesy of manners: some by presents. In conclusion, Constantine commended himself to the prayers of the bishops, and bade them farewell. I do not observe that Mr. Newman refers, as he well might, to this speech in proof of the political character of Constantine's Christianity. The advice here given, bespeaks an accurate acquaintance with human nature; but savors more of the politician than of the missionary. Men will naturally be disposed to embrace Christianity more readily, if they find that by embracing it, far from injuring, they are promoting their worldly interests; and the preacher of the Gospel may be justified in endeavoring to satisfy them that this will be the case; but to hold out temporal advantages as inducements to conversion, is to act in direct opposition to the spirit of the Gospel.

Constantine, after the termination of the Council, addressed letters to the Churches and bishops, in which he congratulated them on the establishment of the true faith and the restoration of peace; and ridiculed Arius and his followers, whom he called Porphyrians, because Arius, like Porphyry, had written against the Christian faith. He directed also, that the works of Arius should be burned; and that all who should be detected in concealing them, should be capitally punished. These angry invectives and denunciations, are little in accordance with the moderate and tolerant language which he employed in his letter to Alexander and Arius, written previously to the Council. But his object, as he him­self states, was to bring all his subjects to an agreement respecting religion. As, therefore, the Council had decreed what the true faith was, and he had confirmed its decrees by his sanction, and had com­manded them to be received as the dictates of the Holy Spirit, he appears to have regarded the few bishops who refused to subscribe them, not only as perverse and contumacious gainsayers of the truth, but as also conspiring to resist his sovereign au­thority, and consequently deserving condign punishment. Mr. Newman, however, who appears to condemn the repressive measures adopted by Constantine against the Donatists, thinks that, in his proceedings after the Council of Nicaea, he acted a part altogether consistent with his own previous sentiments, and praiseworthy under the circum­stances of his defective knowledge.

The history of the events which took place after the Council, is involved in great confusion. Alex­ander, Bishop of Alexandria, died about five months after it, and was succeeded by Athanasius, who, as we have seen, attended him as his deacon, at Nicaea, and, if we are to believe the Ecclesiastical historians, was marked out from the age of boyhood for the episcopal office. According to Socrates, he and some of his playfellows were amusing themselves on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Peter, a former bishop of Alexandria, with assigning to each other the titles of the different sacred orders: one was called a bishop, another a priest, another a deacon; and the title of bishop fell to Athanasius. Alex­ander, happening to pass by, called the boys to him, and asked each what title he had received; and thinking that there was something of a prophetic character in the transaction, ordered them all to be taken to the church and instructed; but particularly singled out Athanasius, whom he ordained as his deacon.

If Constantine entertained the hope that the decision of the Council would restore permanent peace to the Church, he was doomed to disappointment. The controversy, which appears never to have ceased entirely in Egypt, was renewed there with all its original bitterness; and the disputes among the bishops rose to such a height, that the Emperor found it necessary to interpose his authority, and to address a special letter to them. The triumph of the Catholics at the Council appeared to be complete: Arius, Eusebius of Nicomedia, and Theognius were, as we have seen, banished, and the latter two deprived of their bishoprics; while the Emperor seemed well disposed to employ the whole force of civil power in crushing the Arian party. But suddenly the scene is changed, and the Eusebians are in their turn triumphant. Eusebius and Theognius are recalled from banishment and reinstated in their sees, Arius having been previously allowed to return. The Eusebians contrive to expel several of the Catholic bishops, and to get possession of their bishoprics; and we find Constantine, who had so recently banished Arius, commanding Athanasius to receive him into communion, under pain of being himself deposed. If we may give credit to the account of Socrates, the change in the opinions of Constantine was effected through the instrumentality of an Arian presbyter, who possessed great influence with Constantia, the sister of Constantine and widow of Licinius. In her last illness she commended this presbyter to her brother's favor, who admitted him to great intimacy. Of this intimacy he availed himself, to represent Arius as a much injured man, whose belief was not what his enemies affirmed it to be, but in agreement with the creed set forth by the Council. Constantine was in consequence induced to recall Arius, who went to Constantinople accompanied by Euzoius, who had been degraded from the diaconate by Alexander. The Emperor admitted them to his presence, and required them to bring him their profession of faith in writing. This they did, stating that they had derived it from the Holy Gospel, in which Christ commanded his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. They appealed to the judgment of God, both here and hereafter, in attestation of their acknowledgment of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity as the Catholic Church acknowledged them, and as the Scripture in which they implicitly believed, taught. They, there­fore, entreated the Emperor to unite them to their mother, the Church, removing out of the way all questions and superfluity of words, to the end that they and the Church might offer their united prayers for the Emperor's kingdom and for all his race.

The following was the profession of faith presented by Arius and Euzoius:

“We believe in one God, Father Almighty; and in the Lord Jesus Christ, his Son, begotten of Him before all ages, God the Word, by Whom all things were made, both in heaven and earth; who descended, and was incarnate, and suffered, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, and shall come again to Judge the quick and the dead. (We believe) in the Holy Ghost, in the resurrection of the flesh, in the life of the world to come, in the kingdom of heaven, and in one Catholic Church, extending from one end of the earth to the other”.

Such is the statement of Socrates, which he derived from Rufinus. Valesius doubts the truth of the story, and observes that Athanasius takes no notice of it. Yet it is not in itself improbable; and it accounts for that which requires to be accounted for—Constantine's change of opinion. The Benedictine editor adopts it.

Constantine had hoped, that the decree of the Council would effect the object which he had nearest his heart,—that of making all men of one mind in religion. He had, therefore, enforced by all the means in his power, subscription to the decree; and, as we have seen, had required Eusebius of Caesarea to insert the word Omooússius in his creed. The result, however, had disappointed the Emperor’s expectations; and the Eusebians, whose cause appears to have been espoused by many members of the imperial family, succeeded in persuading him that, although they objected to the word, their sentiments were really orthodox, and that Athanasius, by pertinaciously insisting on the use of the word, was the chief obstacle to the restoration of peace. I have already explained the reason of the perti­nacity of Athanasius; the expression “of the same nature of God”, was the only expressions which the Arians could not evade. They were content to say that the Son was of God, because the expression is not inconsistent with the opinion that He is a creature, all created things being of God : but the expression “of the same nature of God” implies His essential divinity—that He is increate. It appears, however, that many considered the expressions to savor of Sabellianism, and to be destructive of the subsistence or personality of the Son. This charge was brought by Eusebius of Caesarea against Eustathius, Bishop of Antioch, who in turn charged Eusebius with corrupting the faith, and with introducing polytheism. The disputes rose to such a height, that a Synod was assembled at Antioch in order to settle them. The party opposed to Eustathius prevailed, and he was deposed from his bishopric on the ground that he did not adhere to the Nicene doctrine, but taught Sabellianism. If, however, we may believe Socrates, this was only a pretence; the real cause of his deposition being such as could not be avowed. This, the historian adds, was the universal practice: whenever an unfortunate bishop was deposed, the bishops who concurred in the sentence loaded him with all sorts of accusations, and charged him with impiety, though they never expressly stated wherein the impiety consisted. The deposition of Eustathius was the signal for a violent outbreak of party feeling at Antioch. When the time for the election of his successor arrived, one portion of the people wished to replace him in the see, another to elect Eusebius of Caesarea; and so great was the tumult, that the city had nearly been destroyed. Not only the municipal authorities, but the military also took part in the contest; and the two parties would have proceeded to blows, if Constantine had not sent one of the counts of the empire with letters addressed to the lay-members of the Church; and Eusebius had not, either spontaneously, or at the Emperor’s suggestion, declined the bishopric. We have complained of the meagerness of the account given by Eusebius of the Nicene Council; the same complaint applies to his account of that of Antioch, though he took so prominent a part in the proceedings. He speaks of the serious disturbances in that city; but says nothing respecting the causes in which they originated, or of the grounds of the deposition of Eusebius; but contents himself with giving some letters of Constantine, one addressed to himself in commendation of his refusal to quit Caesarea for Antioch; another addressed to the bishops assembled at Antioch, in which the Emperor states that Eusebius, in declining the bishopric of Antioch, had acted in strict conformity to ecclesiastical rule; and commends especially to their choice Euphronius, a presbyter of Caesarea, in Cappadocia, and George of Arethusa, who had been ordained presbyter by Alexander at Alexandria. The former appears to have been appointed, though there is some doubt whether he was the immediate successor of Eustathius. Socrates says that he was an Arian; and the succession of Arian bishops at Antioch certainly continued for many years. But the Catholics also appointed a successor to Eustathius; so that the effect of his deposition was to create an open schism in the Church of Antioch, the two parties renouncing all communion with each other: till then there had been no open separation, but the two parties had joined in public worship.

The victory obtained by the Arians at Antioch encouraged them to proceed to further acts of aggression against their opponents, and to the deposition of other bishops. The influence of Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognius on the mind of the Emperor appears to have been gradually on the increase, and they at length determined to assail Athanasius himself. We have seen that Constantine had admitted Arius to his presence at Constantinople. He was now prevailed upon, not only to give Arius permission to return to Alexandria, but to require Athanasius to receive him into communion. Athanasius, however, refused: and the Emperor, incensed at the refusal, wrote him a very angry letter, threatening him with deprivation of his bishopric, and expulsion from Alexandria. These threats not producing the desired effect, the Eusebians, in order to entirely destroy him in the opinion of the Emperor, brought various charges against him. They denied the validity of his consecration, asserting that, after the death of Alexander, fifty-five bishops (Catholic and Meletian) from Egypt and the Thebais met together, and bound themselves by an oath to elect his successor by public suffrage; but that six or seven of the number held a clandestine meeting in violation of their oath, and consecrated Athanasius; who affirmed in refutation of this charge, and his statement is supported by the testimony of the bishops of Egypt and Libya, that his consecration had taken place, not merely with the consent, but at the earnest demand of the people of Alexandria, and that a majority of the bishops assisted at the solemnity. The Eusebians then induced the Meletians, who for the reasons already stated had formed a coalition with them, to bring various accusations against Athanasius; many of them of a frivolous character. He was charged, for instance, with imposing upon the people of Egypt a tax for providing linen vestments for the church at Alexandria. This charge was refuted by Alypius and Macarius, two presbyters of Alexandria, who happened to be at Nicomedia. Constantine in consequence rebuked the accusers, and ordered Athanasius to repair to his court. Eusebius then concocted another charge, that Athanasius had joined in a conspiracy against the Emperor, and had sent a purse of gold to one Philumenus for the use of those who were engaged in it; but Constantine, on investigation, found this charge also to be false, and sent back Athanasius with a letter to the members of the Church of Alexandria, in which he told them that their bishop had been calumniated. A third charge was afterwards brought forward, not against Athanasius directly, but against Macarius, the presbyter who had assisted in disproving the charge respecting the linen vestments, in the hope that his condemnation might indirectly contribute to that of his patron. The name of the accuser in this case was Ischyras, who, though never ordained, had ventured to exercise the functions of the priesthood in the Mareotic region; and, being detected, had fled to Nicomedia, where Eusebius had not only allowed him to officiate as a priest, but had promised to raise him to the episcopate if he would assist in procuring the condemnation of Athanasius. He in consequence accused Macarius of having rushed into his church; leaped upon the holy table, broken the mystic cup, and burned the sacred books.

According to Sozomen, many other charges were brought against Athanasius: he was accused of deposing Callinicus, Bishop of Pelusium, merely because that prelate would not adopt his opinions, and throwing him into prison; of committing the care of the church to one Mark, who had been degraded from the presbyterate; of causing other bishops to be scourged; and of violating a female. But a still more heinous crime was laid to his charge: his enemies produced a hand which they affirmed to be that of Arsenius, the Meletian Bishop of Hypsala, and to be used by Athanasius for magical purposes.

On receiving these accusations Constantine directed his nephew, Dalmatius the censor, who resided at Antioch in Syria, to summon the accused parties, and to punish them if convicted. He sent also Eusebius and Theognius to Antioch, in order that they might be present at the investigation. Athanasius, on receiving the summons, caused search to be made for Arsenius, but could not find him, as he was concealed by the opposite party, and directed continually to change his hiding-place. The investigation, however, was speedily closed by the Emperor, who directed the bishops whom he had summoned to the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, to stop at Tyre by the way, and inquire into the charges. He appears to have wavered much in his opinion; for Athanasius expressly says that he had satisfied himself by his own inquiries at Nicomedia of the falsehood of the charge against Macarius respecting the cup, and that Dalmatius was sent to inquire only into the charge respecting Arsenius. Both charges were, however, remitted to the bishops assembled at Tyre.

According to Sozomen a synod had thirty months before been summoned at Caesarea, but Athanasius did not appear. He showed equal unwillingness to attend the synod at Tyre, not so much, Socrates says, from dread of the accusations, inasmuch as he was ignorant of their nature, as from fear lest some innovation should be attempted in the Creed settled at Nicaea. The Emperor, however, intimated to him that, if he did not come willingly, he would be brought by force; at last, therefore, he obeyed the summons.

Sixty bishops met at Tyre, and Macarius was carried thither in chains under a military guard. Athanasius contended that it ought in the first instance to be proved that Ischyras, the accuser, had really been ordained priest, since he was so desig­nated in the charge. His name does not appear in the list of Meletian clergy delivered by Meletius to Alexander; and Athanasius gives a letter addressed to the Synod of Tyre by the presbyters and deacons of the Mareotis, in which they deny that be had ever been ordained. He adds that the Meletians had never been able to introduce their schism into the region, nor to establish a church nor ministers in it. There was, therefore, neither cup to be broken nor table to be overturned. So long as Athanasius was present nothing was proved against Macarius; but it was finally determined to send a commission to the Mareotis to ascertain the state of facts upon the spot. Nothing, however, could be more unfair than the whole procedure; the commissioners were selected from the personal enemies of Athanasius; and while Macarius was detained in custody at Tyre, his accuser, Ischyras, was allowed to accompany them. Athanasius, therefore, finding that the Count Dionysius, whom Constantine had sent to preside over the synod, was hostile to him, and that, notwithstanding his urgent remonstrances, the commission was composed entirely of his enemies, secretly withdrew and went to the Emperor.

According to Athanasius, the result of the inquiry was wholly in favor of Macarius; and Ischyras confessed, in letters addressed to Alexander of Thessalonica and to Athanasius himself, that the whole story was a fabrication, and that force had been employed in order to induce him to tell it. The investigation into the case of Arsenius resulted also in the establishment of the innocence of Athanasius. We have seen that the Meletians had directed Arsenius to conceal himself; he was, however, discovered providentially in the following manner. He went privately to Tyre; and the ser­vants of Archelaus, a man of consular rank, heard some men in a tavern say that Arsenius, who was reported to have been murdered, was in the house of a person whose name they mentioned. The servants, having taken such notice of the individuals who made the statement as to be able to recognize them, reported what they had heard to their master, who forthwith sought out and secured Arsenius, and sent word to Athanasius that he need be under no alarm, as Arsenius was alive. Arsenius, when seized, pretended to be another person; but Paul, Bishop of Tyre, who had known him long before, identified him. When, therefore, Athanasius was summoned before the synod and the hand was produced, he asked his accusers whether any of them knew Arsenius. Many affirming that they did, Arsenius was introduced, having his hands concealed beneath his garment. Athanasius then asked whether this was the man whose hand was cut off; and, gradually unfolding the garment, showed first one, then the other of his hands; and turning to those present, said: “Arsenius, as you see, has two hands; whence the third was obtained, let my enemies explain”.

Notwithstanding, however, these proofs of the innocence of Athanasius, the synod, when the commissioners returned from the Mareotis, pronounced a sentence of deprivation against him. He must have been prepared for this result, since it was almost entirely composed of his enemies; and, if we can place implicit reliance on the account given by him, they were themselves so ashamed of their proceedings, that they endeavored to suppress the publication of the Acts of the Council. One copy, however, fell into the hands of Julius, Bishop of Rome, who communicated it to Athanasius. Four Alexandrian presbyters were also banished by the synod, though they had not appeared at Tyre. At the conclusion of their proceedings, the bishops, in obedience to the Emperor’s commands, proceeded to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. On their arrival they received Arius and Euzoius into communion, in compliance, as they said, with the Emperor’s injunction; and in a synodical letter urged the Alexandrians to restore peace to the Church by receiving the Arians generally. The concourse of the bishops on the occasion was so great, that Eusebius compares the Synod of Jerusalem to that of Nicaea. After the completion of the ceremony, they gave an account of their proceedings to the Emperor; but in the meantime, as we have seen, Athanasius had gone to Constantinople. There he took an early opportunity of throwing himself in the Emperor’s way, and having with difficulty obtained a hearing, succeeded in persuading Constantine that he had been unjustly condemned, and that his accusers ought to be summoned thither in order that he might have an opportunity of clearing himself in their presence of the charges brought against him. Constantine in consequence addressed a letter to the bishops at Tyre, in which, after giving a graphic account of his meeting with Athanasius, he charged them with having conducted the proceedings at Tyre tumultuously, with a view rather to the gratification of their animosity than to the establishment of the truth, and summoned them to his presence.

Most of the bishops had already returned to their dioceses. But Eusebius of Nicomedia, Theognius, Patrophilus, Ursacius, and Valens went to Constantinople; and instead of attempting to substantiate the charges already brought forward, preferred a new one—that Athanasius had threatened to prevent the exportation from Alexandria of the corn usually sent to Constantinople. This charge, though highly improbable in itself, Constantine either believed or affected to believe; he was naturally weary of these never-ending disputes, and Socrates insinuates that, regarding Athanasius as the only or principal obstacle to the reestablishment of unity in the Church, the Emperor was glad of a pretence for removing him out of the way and banishing him to Treves. Athanasius himself ascribed his banishment to the wish of the Emperor to place him out of the reach of his enemies; and in the letter which the younger Constantine addressed to the people of Alexandria when he sent back Athanasius from Gaul, he intimates this, and adds that his father fully intended to revoke the sentence of banishment. It is diffi­cult otherwise to account for Constantine’s conduct. According to the representation of Athanasius, when he was summoned to Nicomedia and charged with having been engaged in a conspiracy, Constantine was satisfied of his innocence. The result of the inquiry carried on at a Nicomedia into the charge respecting Macarius and the broken cup, as well as of that instituted before Dalmatius the censor, at Antioch, respecting the mutilation of Arsenius, was equally favorable to Athanasius; the Emperor expressed himself satisfied of his innocence, though he remitted both the charges to the bishops assembled at Tyre. It was not till the charge of threatening to stop the supply of corn from Alexandria was brought that Constantine yielded to the solicitations of his accusers. The threat was one calculated greatly to incense Constantine, inasmuch as it directly affected his authority; but it was, as the Egyptian bishops represent, in the highest degree improbable that it was ever uttered; and the precipitancy with which his banishment was pronounced, lends countenance to the account given by Socrates of the motives by which Constantine was influenced. Wearied, as I have already said, by the never-ending disputes, and assailed by the incessant representations of the members of his family and his court, who were for the most part attached to the Eusebian party, he persuaded himself that he was consulting the peace of the empire and of the Church, as well as his own, by banishing Athanasius.

It is to be observed, that the charges against Athanasius turned entirely upon acts committed by him in the administration of his diocese;—upon his tyrannical exercise of power, either over his own clergy or over the Meletians. No charge of heretical teaching was brought against him. Notwithstanding the inconsistency of Constantine’s conduct towards him personally, the Emperor appears steadily to have maintained the decree of the Nicene Council. The friends of Arius were obliged to profess that his doctrine had always been in accordance with that of the Council, before they could procure permission for him to return from banishment; nor was it till after the death of Constantine that any attempt was made to substitute another creed in the place of the Nicene.

After the banishment of Athanasius, Arius returned to Alexandria, and again created confusion by openly preaching his doctrine. Constantine, in consequence, summoned him to Constantinople. Alexander then occupied that see, having succeeded Metrophanes. Regarding himself as the guardian of the Nicene faith, but alarmed at the threats of Eusebius that he should be deprived unless he admitted Arius to communion, he was in a great strait. In his distress he fled to God; and after frequent fastings and supplications, shut himself up in the church called Irene, and there, prostrate beneath the holy table, prayed for several successive days and nights with many tears, that if the doctrine of Arius were true, he might not live until the day appointed for the discussion, which was to take place in the presence of Constantine; but that if his own doctrine were true, Arius might receive the punishment of his impiety. Constantine required Arius to declare on oath that he adhered to the Nicene faith; and believing him, commanded him to be received into communion by Alexander. This took place on Saturday; and Arius, who was to be re­ceived into communion on the following clay, after he had quitted the Emperor’s presence, went as it were in triumph through the streets of the city, surrounded by his partisans. When he came to the forum of Constantine, his conscience smiting him on account of his perjury, he was seized with a looseness, and went aside to a place behind the forum, where he died, having voided the smaller intestines, the spleen and the liver. Such was the death of Arius, which the Emperor regarded as a testimony borne by God to the truth of the Nicene doctrine; and respecting which Gibbon says, that we must make our choice between a miracle and poison. I must confess myself unable to see the necessity. There is nothing in the circumstance which, if we make due allowance for exaggeration, may not be accounted for by natural causes. It was not a miraculous or preternatural interposition; but a most striking and awful event, occurring in the ordinary course of God’s providential government.

The death of Arius was followed quickly by that of the Emperor himself.

We have seen that the Eusebians availed themselves of the ascendancy which they obtained at the Synod of Antioch, in order to oppress and persecute their opponents. The result of the Synod of Tyre gave them still greater confidence; and when they met at Constantinople, they deposed Marcellus, Bishop of Ancyra, whom we have mentioned as joining Athanasius at Nicaea in the defence of the Homoousian doctrine. He appears, however, in defending that doctrine against Asterius, an Arian of whom Athanasius makes frequent mention, to have been betrayed into the use of language, in which his adversaries discovered the heresy of Paul of Samosata,—that of denying the preexistence of Christ. The real cause of his deposition was, according to Sozomen, that he had refused to join in the proceedings of the Eusebians in the Synods of Tyre and Jerusalem, and had absented himself from the dedication of the church of the Holy Sepulcher, because he was unwilling to hold communion with them. His own account of the expressions to which objection had been taken was, that he had used them, not to convey his own deliberate opinions, but merely in order to provoke inquiry. He appears, however, to have leaned to Sabellianism, although Pope Julius, in his letter to the Oriental bishops, maintains his orthodoxy. Athanasius himself did not venture absolutely to affirm it; but his evident disinclination to condemn Marcellus gave the Arians a handle against him. He was restored to the communion of the Church at the Council of Sardica.

Another case in which Athanasius charged the Eusebians with acting with great injustice and cruelty, was that of Paul, who succeeded Alexander in the bishopric of Constantinople. Valesius has written a particular dissertation on the dates connected with the events of his episcopacy. In the decree of the Arian Synod of Philippopolis it is stated, that he subscribed the deposition of Athanasius at Tyre; a statement not easily reconciled to the language in which Athanasius speaks of him, nor to the fact that he was himself, in the following year, ejected from his bishopric; to which, however, he was restored at the death of Constantine, when the other ejected bishops returned to their sees.

He was again ejected by the artifices of Eusebius of Nicomedia, who took possession of the bishopric.

At the death of Eusebius, he returned to Constantinople at the invitation of the Catholics, the Arians at the same time inviting Macedonius. Violent tumults in consequence arose: the populace took part with Paul, and Hermogenes, who was sent by Constantius to quell the disturbances, was murdered. The Emperor, in consequence, went in person to Constantinople, and directed Paul to be carried in chains to Sangaris in Mesopotamia, thence to Emesa, and lastly to Cucusus in Cappadocia, where he was strangled by the order of Philip the Prefect, who had first tried to kill him by starvation. We may observe that Athanasius is scarcely justified in casting the odium of the death of Paul upon the Eusebians: it appears rather to have been the act of Constantius himself, who might consider Paul as the instigator of the tumult in which Hermogenes lost his life, and deal with him in consequence as an offender against his authority.

One of the first objects which occupied the attention of the three sons of Constantine, among whom the empire was divided at his death, was the restoration of peace to the Church. They met in Pannonia, and agreed that the exiled bishops should be allowed to return to their sees. Athanasius, there­fore, after a sojourn of two years and four months at Treves, returned to Alexandria, bearing a letter from the younger Constantine to the lay members of the Church, in which he told them, that in sending back Athanasius he was only fulfilling his father's intention. Both the clergy and laity received their bishop with every demonstration of joy; but he was not allowed a long respite from the attacks of his enemies.

The Eusebians appear to have been able to make no impression on Constantine and Constans by their representations; but the case was different with Constantius. Socrates gives a lively description of the manner in which the presbyter, through whose influence Constantine was induced to recall Arius from banishment, and in whose hands he placed his will, with directions to deliver it only to Constantius, gained over first the eunuchs, and afterwards the wife of Constantius, to the Arian party. Confident, therefore, that they should find the Emperor disposed readily to receive any accusations which they might bring against Athanasius, the Eusebians charged him with having acted with great violence on his return to Alexandria. They represented him also as guilty of great contumacy in returning before the sentence pronounced against him by the Synod of Tyre had been reversed by the decision of another synod; they renewed the old charges respecting the broken cup and the mutilation of Arsenius; and further accused him of diverting to his own use the corn intended for the support of the widows of Alexandria.

Both parties were naturally desirous to secure the support of the bishop of Rome. The Eusebians sent the presbyter Macarius and the deacons Martyrius and Hesychius on an embassy to Julius, in order to persuade him that the charges preferred against Athanasius at the Synod of Tyre were well founded. They appear, however, to have been completely confuted by the presbyters whom Athanasius had sent from Alexandria to defend his cause. Macarius in consequence quitted Rome secretly, leaving his two companions there, who called upon Julius to summon a synod for the settlement of all the points in dispute. They made this demand, according to Athanasius, in the expectation that he would not appear at Rome.

In the meantime he, in order to add strength to his cause, had assembled a synod at Alexandria, to whose letter, which is inserted in his apology against the Arians, reference has already been made; and with a similar view the Eusebians assembled at Antioch, in the presence of Constantius, the synod which was called the Synod of the Dedication, because the alleged plea for convening it was the dedication of a church which had been left unfinished by Constantine. Socrates, however, says that the real object was to set aside the confession of faith agreed upon at Nicaea. This, as we have seen, the Eusebians despaired of effecting so long as Constantine lived: but as they had persuaded Constantius that the word Omooúsius necessarily implied something corporeal, they felt assured that they should now be able to expunge it from the creed.

Four creeds were set forth at this Council. In the first, as if conscious that they labored under the suspicion of Arianism, the framers began with saying that they were not followers of Arius, for how could bishops follow a presbyter? but that they had received Arius into communion, finding, on examination, that his faith was correct. They then put forth a profession of faith, in which, as Sozomen justly observes, they appeared designedly to omit every expression which could be objected to by either party, and did not even state whether the Son is co-eternal and co-essential with the Father, or not.

Of the second creed Sozomen says, that it appeared to him to agree in all points with the Nicene faith, excepting that it omitted the word Omooúsius. This creed they professed to possess in the hand­writing of Lucian, who suffered martyrdom at Nicomedia, and was, as we have seen, the master of Eusebius, Arius, and others of that party. The Oxford annotator calls it semi-Arian; Hilary pronounces it orthodox.

The third creed was put forth by Theophronius, Bishop of Tyana; and the fourth was the creed with which Narcissus, Maris, Theodorus, and Mark were sent to Constans, in Gaul, in the hope of attaching him to the Eusebian party. Neither of these creeds contains the word Omooúsius. We have seen that when, at the command of Constan­tine, Eusebius of Caesarea inserted the word in the creed which he drew up at Nicaea, he added an explanation of the sense in which it was to be understood: it was to be understood, not in the sense of any bodily affection, as implying subsistence by division or abscission from the Father, but in a divine and ineffable sense; since that which is immaterial and the object of the intellect and incorporeal, cannot be subject to any bodily affection. By adding this explanation, he meant to anticipate the objection which the Eusebians made to the word. They objected to it on the ground that it is applicable only to things corporeal, to men, and animals, and trees, and plants, which are generated from that which is like to them, and participate of it; and they contended that the word Omooúsius is the proper word to be used with reference to incorporeal beings, as God and angels, of each of whom we form a notion separately, according to his proper essence. By these subtleties they induced Constantius to adopt the Homoaousian doctrine, or perhaps we should rather say, language; for Sozomen states, that Constantius really agreed in opinion with his father and his brother Constans; but was afraid to use the term Omooúsius, lest he should confound things corporeal and incorporeal—a vain fear, Sozomen very justly adds; since when we speak of the objects of the intellect, we must borrow our language from the objects of sense; and so long as the meaning which we attach to them is correct, the words are of little consequence. This statement of Sozomen accounts for the determination of the Eusebians to exclude the word Omooúsius from the creeds which they put forth: I have already explained why Athanasius insisted so pertinaciously on its insertion.

To return to the proceedings of the synod of Antioch, it confirmed the sentence of deposition pronounced against Athanasius at Tyre, and sent Gregory of Cappadocia to take possession of the see of Alexandria. Although Athanasius had been banished to Treves, yet as he had not been convicted, nor even accused of holding heretical doctrine, Constantine does not appear to have sent any one to occupy his place.

After the death of Constantine a the Eusebians endeavoured to prevail upon Julius, while Athanasius was still at Alexandria, to recognize as bishop Pistus, who had been expelled by Alexander for Arianism, and had been consecrated by Secundus. They failed in their attempt: and the Synod of Antioch then offered the bishopric to Eusebius Emisenus, who declined it, knowing the attachment of the Alexandrians to Athanasius, and fearing their turbulent temper. Gregory, therefore, was sent; and his arrival was the signal for the commencement of a series of violent proceedings against the Catholics who manifested their dislike of his intrusion. Virgins were insulted and scourged; monks were trodden under foot; the holy temple was profaned; the sacred books thrown into the flames; a church and baptistery were burned. Sarapammon, who had been a confessor, was banished; and Potamo, whose rebuke of Eusebius of Caesarea at the Synod of Tyre has been already noticed, was so severely beaten that he died in consequence of the injuries which he received. These outrages were committed by Philagrius, the prefect, and the military, at the instigation of Gregory. They went at last in search of Athanasius to the church at which he chiefly resided, with the intent to put him to death; but he secretly withdrew, and escaped their fury. He appears about this time to have received from Julius a summons to attend the synod which was to meet at Rome, and in consequence to have repaired thither; having first addressed a letter to Constans, in which he defended himself against the charges of the Eusebians. He sent with it the volumes of the Scriptures which Constans had ordered him to prepare.

Although the Eusebians had urged Julius to summon a synod, yet when he informed them, through the presbyters Elpidius and Philoxenus, that he was ready to hold it, and that Athanasius had been residing eighteen months at Rome, instead of attending to his summons, they detained his messengers and made various excuses for not repairing thither. They complained of the shortness of the notice, and of the impediments thrown in the way of travelling by the Persian war. A synod, however, was held, and attended by fifty bishops, who received Athanasius and Marcellus into communion. At their request Julius addressed a letter to the heads of the Eusebian party, who were present at the Synod of the Dedication, in which he complained that, having urged him to summon a synod, Eusebius had, when invited, refused in uncivil terms to attend it. Nothing, he goes on to say, had been proved against Athanasius at Tyre; nor was Athanasius present in the Mareotis when the investigation of the charges against him took place. Julius mentions, as we have already seen, the attempt made by the messengers of Eusebius to induce him to recognize Pistus, and a similar attempt made through the mission of Carponas to induce him to recognize Gregory. He states his refusal to accede to their requests; and adds that more credit was to be given to the Egyptian bishops who were on the spot than to those assembled at Antioch, who were at a distance when the transactions in the Mareotis occurred. Gregory, moreover, had taken possession of the see by violence, through the intervention of an armed force, had committed various enormities, and persecuted all who opposed the Arians. He alleges the long interval during which the see of Alexandria had remained vacant as a proof that Athanasius had not been convicted of any offence at Tyre; and concludes his letter with complaining that the bishops at Antioch had proceeded to pronounce sentence without previous communication with the Church of Rome, and with exhorting them to follow his example and to receive Athanasius and Marcellus into communion. All the bishops of Italy appear to have concurred in the sentiments expressed in this letter.

Matters were in this state when Constans, who was then at Milan, at the request of some of the bishops who had met at Rome, suggested to Constantius that, in order to put an end to the disputes which troubled and disgraced the Church, a general council should be summoned to Sardica. But before it met, the Eusebians called a synod at Antioch, in which they agreed upon the confession of faith known by the name of the Macrostich, on account of its length, and sent it into Italy by the hands of Eudoxius, Martyrius, and Macedonius, by whom it was presented to Constans and to the bishops whom he had assembled at Milan, and who refused to receive it on the ground that they were satisfied with the Nicene faith. The Eusebians also drew up a letter in reply to that which Julius had addressed to them. They denied that they were bound to refer the case of Athanasius to Rome, and contended that Julius had been guilty of a breach of ecclesiastical rule in annulling their sentence and restoring him to communion. They said that the Eastern Churches had not interfered when Novatian was ejected by the Church of Rome; and that they would maintain peace and communion with Julius, if he would concur in the deposition of the bishops whom they had expelled, and in the appointment of those who had been substituted in their place.

About one hundred and severity Eastern and Western bishops met at Sardica the Western having Hosius at their head; the Eastern being accompanied by the Count Musonianus and an officer of the palace named Hesychius. The Eusebians, however, finding that some of the bishops who had accompanied them to Sardica had seceded from them, and that they could not carry matters with the same high hand as at Tyre and Antioch, quitted Rome under the pretence that they had received letters from the Emperor in which he announced his victory over the Persians. Hosius, having in vain summoned them to return, proceeded with the other bishops to receive Athanasius, Marcellus, and Asclepas into communion, and sent letters into Egypt and Libya declaring them free from all blame. The bishops at the same time deposed Stephanus, Menophantus, Acacius, George of Laodicea, Ursacius, Valens, Theodorus, and Narcissus. With respect to Gregory, who had been sent to Alexandria, they pronounced that he had never been consecrated. They addressed also a letter to Julius, in which they gave a brief account of what had been done in the Council, and requested him to make it known to the brethren in Sicily, Sardinia, and Italy.

The Eusebians, after they quitted Sardica, held a Council at Philippopolis, and put forth a decree, which has been preserved by Hilary, and which they insidiously represented as the decree of the Council of Sardica. From it we learn the reasons which they assigned in justification of their refusal to act with the bishops of the Western Church. It is one of the few documents put forth by the Eusebians in their defence which has reached our time, and may be considered as their manifesto against Athanasius and his party.

They begin with assailing Marcellus, whom they accuse of mixing together the errors of Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, and Montanus. A Council was, held at Constantinople by order of Constantine to inquire into his tenets, which were condemned; and a record of the condemnation was deposited in the archives of the Church. Notwithstanding this condemnation, he had been received into communion at Sardica, with the consent of Protogenes, the bishop of that see, who had been a party to the sentence pronounced against him at Constantinople.


They then proceed to repeat the old charges against Athanasius of breaking the mystic cup, of overturning the altar and the priests’ throne, of destroying the church, and committing the presbyter, whom they call Narchus, to military custody. They accuse him of various acts of oppression and cruelty, of scourging and even killing bishops. The accusations are, indeed, the counterpart of those which Athanasius brought against Gregory and the prefect Philagrius, when the former took possession of the see of Alexandria. They ascribe similar acts of violence to Paul, Marcellus, Asclepas, and Lucius of Adrianople, when they were restored to their respective sees after the death of Constantine.

They state that a Council was first summoned to Caesarea to investigate these charges, but that Athanasius did not appear; that another Council was summoned in the following year to Tyre, and that certain Bishops were sent to the Mareotis to inquire into the truth of the accusations on the spot, who on their return reported that the charges were well founded; that Athanasius, being present, was con­demned, and in consequence repaired to the Emperor at Constantinople; that the inquiry was then re­opened, and that he was again condemned and banished by Constantine.

They go on to state that, when he returned from Gaul after the death of Constantine, in his way to Alexandria, he interfered irregularly with the Churches in the places through which he passed, restoring bishops who had been condemned by Councils, and ejecting those actually in possession; that on his arrival at Alexandria he acted in the most arbitrary and tyrannical manner; that being convicted of all these charges he was deposed by the Synod of Antioch, and Gregory, a holy and blameless man, sent to fill his place; and that, having in vain endeavored to induce the Eastern bishops to espouse his cause, he at last came to Julius at Rome, in the hope that he might easily impose on those who, on account of their distance from Alexandria, could not be cognizant of the real state of facts.

They further state, that on their arrival at Sardica, in compliance with the summons of Julius, they found that he and Maximin of Treves, and Hosius, had received Athanasius and Marcellus into communion, and had allowed them to take their seats at the Council; that they to the number of eighty remonstrated and insisted on their expulsion, on the ground that they had been condemned by a Council, but that no attention was paid to the remonstrance; that five of the bishops who had been employed on the mission to the Mareotis then proposed that other bishops should be united with them, and another investigation take place; but that Protogenes and Hosius would not entertain the proposition. They add, that a number of men of the most profligate and desperate character had flocked from Alexandria and Constantinople to Sardica, and committed many acts of violence against the Eastern bishops, who, in consequence, determined to retire from the place, having first drawn up this synodical letter.

They conclude with exhorting their brethren not to communicate with Hosius, Protogenes, Athanasius, Marcellus, Asclepas, Paulus, and Julius; with complaining that aged and infirm bishops were dragged from their churches and their homes on account of some few worthless persons who were disturbing the peace of the Church; with affirming that it was contrary to all ecclesiastical rule, and reason, and justice, that the Western Churches should take upon them to undo what the Eastern Churches had done; and with alleging, in proof of the statement, that the decree pronounced against Novatus at Rome had been confirmed by the Eastern Church, and that against Paul of Samosata at Antioch by the Western. It appears that the Eastern Churches were already beginning to be jealous of the superiority assumed over them by the Church of Rome.

The bishops who met at Philippopolis are said by Socrates to have anathematized the word Omooúsius and to have asserted the Anomoean doctrine; but as Valesius observes, this charge is not borne out by the profession of faith annexed to the decree, which Hilary pronounces orthodox. It appears to have been brought forward at the Council of Sardica, and to have been rejected on the ground that the Nicene profession was sufficient, and that no other ought to be allowed.

According to Athanasius, the seceding bishops acted with great violence after they quitted Sardica. They caused, through the agency of the Count Philagrius, ten laymen who refused to communicate with them to be put to death at Adrianople; two presbyters and three deacons to be banished into Armenia; and Arius and Asterius, who had quitted their party at Sardica, to be banished into Libya. They procured also an order from Constantius, authorizing the magistrates to put Athanasius and certain of his followers to death, if they should attempt to enter Alexandria. In some cases they endeavored to accomplish their purposes by less open means. The bishops assembled at Sardica sent Vincentius of Capua and Euphratas of Agrippina to Constantius, to obtain his sanction to their decision, and to prevail upon him to restore the exiled bishops to their churches. When the two bishops arrived at Antioch, the bishop Stephanus laid a plot to involve Euphratas in a charge of incontinence: the plot, however, was detected, Stephanus deposed, and Leontius substituted in his place.

It is probable that the solicitations of the Council would have made little impression on Constantius, if Constans had not written to the same effect. He now permitted the bishops to return; and on the death of Gregory, which happened shortly after, he invited Athanasius to Alexandria, at the same time telling Constans that he had been expecting the bishop for a year, and had kept the see open for him. Not content with writing three letters to Athanasius, he wrote also to the bishops and clergy of Alexandria, commending Athanasius to them. He commanded also that all the documents injurious to the character of Athanasius should be destroyed. Having remained at Rome three years, Athanasius had gone to Milan at the command of Constans, and was present among the bishops to whom the Macrostic profession of faith was presented by the delegates from the Council of Antioch. From Milan, at the summons of Constans, he went with Hosius into Gaul, and they travelled together to Sardica. After the Council at Sardica he went to Naissus, where he again received letters from Constans, and thence to Aquileia, where he received the letters from Constantius. He then went to Constans in Gaul, and afterwards met Constantius at Antioch. Leaving Antioch, he passed through Syria, and was congratulated by the bishops of Palestine, assembled in council at Jerusalem, on his restoration to his see. They addressed also a congratulatory epistle to the Church of Alexandria, which received him with every demonstration of joy and affection. About this time also, Ursacius and Valens, who were deposed by the Council of Sardica, wrote letters to Julius and Athanasius; in that to the former they acknowledged the charges brought against Athanasius to be false, and condemned Arius and his heresy: the letter to Athanasius contains only the expression of their good wishes, and of their desire to be in communion with him.

Eusebius of Nicomedia died soon after the Council of Rome. And about this time, by the death of Constans, Athanasius was deprived of his most steadfast and powerful friend. Leontius, Bishop of Antioch, appears then to have become the head of the Arian party, and to have associated to himself George of Laodicea, Acacius, Theodorus, and Narcissus.

Athanasius, therefore, was not allowed to remain long in quiet at Alexandria. Ursacius and Valens were persuaded to retract their confession, and to say that it was made under fear of the displeasure of Constans; and the Emperor was at last prevailed upon, notwithstanding the promise which he had made to Athanasius never again to listen to the accusations of the Eusebians, to commence a persecution of the Catholic bishops. He was then on his march against Magnentius; and he afterwards, both from Arles and Milan, issued decrees favorable to the Arians. The portion of corn hitherto given to Athanasius was transferred to the Arians; and commissioners were sent in different directions to compel both the magistrates and the bishops to renounce communion with him. The bishops were threatened with deprivation; some, however, refused to obey the Emperor's commands, and even remonstrated with him on the iniquity of his proceedings. They were in consequence banished; but, according to Athanasius, this severity operated to the disadvantage of the Arian cause; for the exiles, in their way to their several places of banishment, took every opportunity of preaching the true doctrine and exposing the injustice and cruelty of their opponents. He hence takes occasion to observe that attempts to suppress truth by violence always contribute to its wider diffusion. In the meantime Julius, Bishop of Rome, died, and Constantius lost no time in endeavoring to gain over Liberius, who succeeded him, to the Arian cause. The eunuch Eusebius was sent to him with large presents, and Athanasius gives a lively account of the conversation which passed between them. It ended in the refusal of Liberius to receive the presents and to condemn Athanasius. Eusebius then offered the presents at the shrine erected in memory of the martyrdom of St. Peter; but Liberius indignantly ordered them to be removed. Constantius was greatly incensed at the failure of the mission of Eusebius, and commenced a persecution of the Catholics, which Athanasius describes as more cruel even than that of Maximian, since he separated those whom he banished; whereas Maximian allowed them the consolation of each other’s society in their exile. The Emperor ordered Liberius to be brought by force from Rome. His severity, however, was unavailing; the bishop still refused to join the Arian party, and even rebuked him sharply for his persecution of the Catholics. The result was the banishment of Liberius, whose firmness gave way after he had remained in exile two years, and had been threatened with death. He subscribed the Creed put forth by the Council of Sirmium, which condemned Photinus, and was restored to his bishopric.

Nearly a similar course was pursued with the aged Hosius. Constantius urgently solicited him to condemn Athanasius. He not only refused, but wrote a letter to the Emperor, in which he contrasted the conduct of Athanasius at the Council of Sardica with that of the Arian bishops; and, referring to the confession of Ursacius and Valens, reminded the Emperor of the account which he must one day render, and warned him against lending his countenance to men who, having once confessed the innocence of Athanasius, afterwards retracted their confession. With such men no communion ought to be held. Hosius, however, after he had been detained a whole year at Sirmium, and treated with great severity, being broken down with age and suffering, consented to communicate with Ursacius and Valens, but still refused to subscribe the condemnation of Athanasius.

As Constantius had himself invited Athanasius to return to Alexandria, it was necessary for him, before he again took hostile measures against the bishop, to assign some reason for his change of conduct; and we find that he charged Athanasius with having endeavored to alienate his brother Constans from him, and with having favored the cause of Magnentius. In his reply to the former of these accusations, Athanasius affirms that he had never conversed with Constans, excepting in the presence of other bishops, who might, if there had been any truth in the charge, have been produced as witnesses against him; and that he had never written to Constans, excepting in his own defence, or on the affairs of the Church. He refers particularly to one occasion, on which he had spoken in praise of the piety of Constantius to Constans in the presence of Thalassius, who, at the suggestion of Constantius, had written to encourage him to return to Alexandria.

Athanasius treats the second charge as too monstrous to deserve a serious answer. Was it probable that he should assist or hold intercourse with one who had murdered his benefactor? He had, on the contrary, directed prayers to be offered up in the churches of Alexandria for the success of the arms of Constantius. His enemies appear to have asserted that they had in their possession letters in his hand­writing addressed to Magnentius. He answered that if any such letters existed they were forgeries; and asked whether the ambassadors who came from Magnentius to Constantius brought any letters addressed to him.

Two other charges were brought against him: one that he had performed service in the Great Church before it was completed. He admits the fact, and defends it on the ground of necessity; none of the churches in Alexandria being of sufficient magnitude to receive the crowds who assem­bled to celebrate the festival of Easter. He appeals also to the example of his predecessor Alexander, who had used the church called Theonas before it was finished; and of the Bishops of Treves and Aquileia, who had followed the same course; the latter when Constans himself was present.

The other charge was, that Athanasius had disregarded the command of Constantius to leave Alexandria and repair to the court. To this charge he replied, that Montanus, the Palatine, brought him a letter from Constantius, purporting to be an answer to one in which he had asked permission to go to Italy in order to obtain a supply of what was wanting to the churches of Alexandria. Knowing that he had written no such letter, he concluded that it had been forged by his enemies, like those which they had accused him of writing to Magnentius. As, therefore, the Emperor's letter had been obtained by misrepresentation, he acted as if he had received no such summons. He would, moreover, have been guilty of a breach of duty in quitting his churches; especially as the Emperor had always been ready to supply any wants, which he made known by letter. Twenty-six months afterwards, Diogenes and Hilary the notary came, but brought no letter from the Emperor. When, therefore, Syrianus gave out that the churches, in violation of the promise made by Constantius to Athanasius, were to be placed at the disposal of the Arians, Athanasius demanded a sight of his instructions. He admitted the justice of the demand, and promised to put an end to the disturbances created by the Arians. Instead, however, of keeping his promise, he himself broke into the Great Church while the people were assembled, and committed many outrages.

Such were the charges by which the enemies of Athanasius succeeded in exasperating Constantius against him, and by which the Emperor justified his own departure from the promise contained in his letter written after the death of Constans. He professed also, that nothing but respect for his brother’s memory had induced him to allow Athanasius to remain so long at Alexandria. Finding, at length, that the peace of the Church could not be restored by any other means, he had determined, in imitation of his father’s example, not only to banish Athanasius, but also to deprive him of his bishopric. With this view, George of Cappadocia was sent to Alexandria; and, as the people showed a disposition to support their bishop, he was accompanied by an armed force under the orders of the Count Heraclius. Athanasius gives an account of the violence used by Heraclius in taking possession of the churches in order to transfer them to the Arians: and says that the persecution of the Catholics by the Arians was worse than that of the Christians by the Heathens.

It extended throughout Egypt, under the directions of Secundus of Pentapolis, one of the original supporters of Arius, and Stephanus, who had been ejected from Antioch. The orthodox bishops were expelled and banished, and Arians substituted in their place, many of whom are represented by Athanasius to have been men of bad morals.

Athanasius himself with difficulty escaped, when, at the instigation of Heraclius, the rabble broke into the Great Church, where the people were holding a vigil, and committed every species of enormity, taking out the seats, the holy table, the curtains, the throne, and burning them in the streets; treating the women with every kind of insult, tearing the veils from the heads of the virgins, assailing their ears with the most obscene expressions, and even stoning some to death. After his escape from the church, Athanasius remained in concealment in the desert, and prepared his Apology to Constantius, with the intention of presenting it in person. Receiving, however, intelligence of the banishment of Liberius, Hosius, Paulinus, Dionysius, Eusebius of Vercelli, Lucifer, and many other bishops, priests, and deacons, and of the persecution to which Vincentius of Capua, Fortunatianus of Aquileia, Heremius of Thessalonica, as well as other Western bishops, and nearly ninety bishops of Egypt and Libya, had been subjected: hearing also that Constantius had sent orders to seize Frumentius, Bishop of Axume, and to make strict search for himself, he returned to the desert. His enemies, as was to be expected, made his flight a ground of accusation against him, imputing it to the fear of death. He, in consequence, wrote the apology for his flight, in which he justified himself by appealing to the ex­amples of Jacob, Moses, David, and Elias under the Old Testament, and to the precepts and example of our Blessed Lord, and to the conduct of St. Paul and the other apostles. He fled, not because he feared death, buts in obedience to Christ's injunctions, that men should know their appointed time, and not rashly tempt the Lord: he was at all times ready to encounter death, rather than renounce the orthodox faith.

In the meantime, the Arian bishops had suggested to Constantius, that a council should be held at Nicaea, for the final settlement of the disputes which agitated Christendom; their real object being, according to Athanasius, to supersede the decrees of the Nicene Council in the minds of men. Basil, however, of Ancyra, objected to Nicaea as the place of meeting, on the ground that any decrees which might be made there, would be confounded with those of the former Council; and Nicomedia was then named. The intention of meeting there was frustrated by the occurrence of a severe earthquake; and Nicaea was again named, at the suggestion of Basil. Ultimately it was determined that the Western bishops should meet at Rimini, the Eastern at Seleucia.

Four hundred bishops met at Rimini. A profession of faith drawn up at Sirmium was presented, and the Council was pressed to adopt it, on the ground that, if the word Ousia, which is nowhere applied in Scripture to the Father, and gave offence to many, were omitted, peace would be restored to the Church. This profession represented the Son as like in all respects to the Father.

The orthodox bishops objected to its reception, on the ground that the Nicene Confession was sufficient. They suspected also, that some fraud was intended, and that the creed, though apparently orthodox in terms, might admit an Arian construction: in consequence, they required the bishops who presented it, to subscribe the condemnation of the Arian tenets in the terms prescribed at the end of the Nicene Creed. On their refusal to subscribe they were deposed. The Council then addressed a letter to Constantius, in which it expressed its determination to adhere to the Nicene Creed, which had been settled after due deliberation in the presence of his father Constantine. This, it proceeded to say, was the true mode of preserving the peace of the Church; which must, on the contrary, be disturbed, if attention were paid to the representations of Ursacius and Valens, who had been suspended from communion on account of their leaning to Arianism; and though they had been restored at Milan on their retractation of their errors, were yet continually putting forth new formulas of faith. The Council concluded with urging the Emperor to allow the bishops detained at Rimini, many of whom were broken with age and poverty, to return home, lest the spiritual interests of their Churches should suffer. The Council also sent its decree to the Emperor, in which it states that Ursacius, Valens, Germinius, and Gains had been condemned.

The letters and the decree were sent to the Emperor by ten bishops, in obedience to his original direction. Valens, however, anticipated them: he repaired to the court, where he succeeded so completely in gaining over the Emperor to his views, that the delegates of the Council could not obtain admission to the royal presence. At last, Constantius wrote to the Council, alleging in excuse of his refusal to receive their delegates, that he was wholly occupied with the Persian war, and stating that he had ordered them to meet him at Hadrianople on his return from the campaign. In answer to this letter, the Council expressed its determination to adhere to its decree, and again entreated Constantius to allow the bishops to return to their dioceses before the setting in of winter. It is certain, however, that a creed of a character similar to that which had been rejected, was at last put forth as the profession of faith agreed upon at Rimini; and we learn from Sozomen, that two different accounts were given of the mode in which this was effected. One was, that the bishops at Rimini, having waited some time for an answer to their last letter to the Emperor and received none, broke up the Council and returned to their dioceses; that Constantius resented their departure without his previous permission as a contempt of his authority, and gave Valens full power to arrange the affairs of the Western Church according to his discretion; to promulgate the profession of faith which he had caused to be read at Rimini; to expel from their bishoprics all who refused to subscribe, and to substitute others in their places; that Valens, acting upon the authority thus given him, expelled several bishops, and having constrained the Western Churches to adopt the creed, proceeded to the East.

Passing through Thrace, he caused a synod to be called at Nice, at which he published the creed, having first translated it into Greek, and, availing himself of the similarity of names, pretended that it was the creed set forth at Nicaea in Bithynia. The other account is, that the delegates from Rimini were detained at Nice, under the pretence that the season of the year rendered travelling almost impracticable; that Valens and his associates took the opportunity of representing to them, that the peace of the Church ought not to be disturbed on account of a single word; that the Eastern bishops would never consent to the introduction of the word ousía, but that they would adopt the creed set forth by Valens; and that the delegates ought consequently, for the sake of peace, to subscribe it.

In the meantime, the Eastern bishops had met at Seleucia to the number of about one hundred and sixty. According to Athanasius, Acacius, with his friends, in order to ward off the condemnation which they apprehended, having associated to themselves certain Arian bishops who had been consecrated by Secundus, the same who was deposed at the Nicene Council,—Stephanus, Seras, and Pollux, bishops of Libya, Pancratius and a Meletian bishop named Ptolemy,—openly rejected the Nicene creed. A great majority, however, confirmed it, with the exception of the word Omooúsius, which they omitted on account of its ambiguity. After much angry discussion, Acacius, Patrophilus, Uranius of Tyre, George of Cappadocia, Leontius, Theodotus, Evagrius, and Theodulus, were deposed; Asterius, Eusebius, Abgarus, Basilicus, Phoebus, Fidelius, Eutychius, Eustathius, and Magnus, were excommunicated, because they had not appeared when called upon to answer the accusations against them.

Having communicated the decree to their several dioceses, the bishops returned home, with the exception of those who were deputed to render Constantius an account of their proceedings.

According to Socrates and Sozomen, the question was first debated among the bishops, whether they should, before they entered into the discussion of points of doctrine, enquire into certain charges affecting the moral character of some of their number. It was determined, however, to proceed to the points of doctrine. The majority were in favor of the Creed of the Dedication; the others of the creed set forth by Mark of Arethusa at Sirmium. Acacius joined the latter party, though he had not long before written a letter to Macedonius, in which he professed to believe that the Son is in all respects like the Father, and of the same substance. Leonas, an officer of the palace, who had been sent by Constantius to be present at the discussions, took part with Acacius, and caused the profession of faith which he had drawn up to be read to the Synod. He and his party were, nevertheless, as we have seen, condemned. After the Synod was dissolved, the Acacians proceeded to the Emperor at Constantinople, where they met the delegates both from Rimini and Seleucia; and Constantius directed the united body, in conjunction with other bishops who happened to be in the place, to examine into the tenets of Aetius, which were condemned. He then commanded the delegates from Seleucia to subscribe the profession of faith which Valens had succeeded in persuading the delegates from Rimini to sign. Such was the result of the Synods of Rimini and Seleucia. Constantius, who professed, according to Sozomen’s statement, to believe that the Son is in all respects like the Father, employed his imperial power in forcing upon the Christian world a creed in which the Son is said generally to be like the Father, and the word Ousía is purposely omitted. It is to the publication of this creed that the memorable remark of Jerome applies: “Ingemuit totus orbis et se Arianum esse miratus est”. Athanasius had applauded the Synod at Rimini for their firmness in rejecting the creed proposed by Valens; great, therefore, was his surprise and grief, when he learned that they had been induced by the threats of Constantius to subscribe the creed put forth by Valens at Nice. He states further, that the Arian bishops met together afterwards at Antioch, and there put forth a purely Anomoean creed, in which the Son was said to be in no manner like the Father, reverting, as he says, to the original principles of Arius, the founder of their sect.

Having completed his narrative of what passed at Constantinople, and made his way, to use his own expression, through the labyrinth of confessions of faith, Socrates says that he will pause to enumerate them.

He first mentions the Nicene, of which the distinguishing feature was the word Omooúsius insisted upon by Athanasius as that which best expressed the essential divinity of the Son, the oneness of His essence with the Father’s, and admitted of no evasion.

He next mentions two creeds set forth at Antioch, of which the former does not bear on the points in dispute, but is another version of the Apostles’ creed: the latter is known by the name of the Formulary of the Dedication, and was attributed to Lucian by the Eusebians, who said that they had found a copy in his own handwriting. It does not contain the word Omooúsius. Hilary deemed it orthodox.

Socrates next mentions the confession which was delivered by Narcissus and his associates to Constans, in Gaul; and omits the word Ousía.

The next is the confession known by the name of the Macrostic; in it the Son is said to be in every respect like to the Father; an expression which admitted of evasion, since it might or might not be construed to include likeness in essence.

Socrates then mentions the three confessions drawn up at Sirmium; the first, that of the synod summoned for the condemnation of Photinus, which Hilary deemed orthodox; the second, from which the words Ousía, Omooúsius, are excluded, and to which Hilary gives the title of “blasphemia”; the third, which has prefixed to it the consulate in which it was published, and was composed by Mark of Arethusa. It was, with some alteration, proposed to the Synod of Rimini, but rejected.

The eighth, the creed produced at Seleucia by the Arians; the ninth, that which Constantius forced upon the synods of Rimini and Seleucia. Socrates adds that Ulphilas, the Bishop of the Goths, then joined the Arian party. This long list of confessions is not complete, for Athanasius says that ten or more were put forth; among them one, as we have seen, by the bishops who seceded from Sardica to Philippopolis.

To return to Athanasius, who, as has been stated, took refuge from the violence of his enemies in the desert. George of Cappadocia then took possession of the see of Alexandria, and held it about six years. According to Athanasius, he was a man of bad character and not really a Christian; and according to Epiphanius, he resorted to the most disgraceful as well as violent proceedings in order to gratify his avarice. He deprived many of the inheritance left them by their parents; he monopolized the nitre of Egypt, the beds of papyrus, and the salt lakes, farming them for his own profit; he caused a number of biers to be made, and would allow no others to be used for carrying out the bodies of the dead, thus making a profit even out of funerals. We might feel some distrust of the accounts given of his avarice and cruelty by the supporters of Athanasius, if they were not confirmed by the testimony of Ammianus Marcellinus, who speaks of his appointment to the bishopric of Alexandria as a public calamity, and says that he tried to persuade Constantius that the soil on which Alexandria stood belonged to him, as the successor of the founder of the city, and consequently all the houses built upon it. The people had long regarded him with bitter hatred; but the immediate cause of his death appears to have been a casual exclamation which he uttered as he passed the Temple of Genius, a temple remarkable for its beauty. “How long”, he said, “shall this sepulchre stand?”. The people inferring that he intended to destroy the temple, broke out into insurrection, tore him, together with Dracontius, the master of the mint, and the Count Diodorus, to pieces, and treated their dead bodies with every species of indignity. This event took place shortly after the death of Constantius; his successor Julian, on hearing it, was at first disposed to inflict very severe punishment on the offenders, but, in the end, contented himself with threatening anyone who should in future disturb the public tranquility. The friends of Athanasius were naturally charged by his enemies with instigating the tumult, but the letter of Julian gives no countenance to the charge. Julian, on his accession to the empire, permitted all the bishops who had been banished by Constantius to return home; among them Eusebius of Vercelli and Lucifer of Cagliari, who had been banished to the Thebais. Athanasius in consequence returned to Alexandria; and as the death of George had removed all obstacle to his resumption of the see, he resumed it amidst the joy and acclamations of the people.

In recording the events which occurred after the reinstatement of Athanasius in his see, we derive little assistance from his own works. We learn from Socrates that, shortly after his return, he and Eusebius of Vercelli determined to hold a synod at Alexandria, at which Lucifer was not present, though he sent his deacon and promised to abide by all which the synod might decree. The immediate object of the synod appears to have been to reunite the orthodox who had been scattered during the episcopate of George, and to settle the terms of union. These were, that all should condemn the heresy of Arius and accept the Nicene confession; that they should condemn, also, those who said that the Holy Spirit was a creature, and distinct from the essence of Christ; and that they should hold the perfect humanity of Christ—that He had a human soul as well as body. It appears that there were some who spoke of three Hipostásis in the Deity, and some only of one of it, the former using the word in the sense of person, in opposition to the notion of a nominal Trinity; the other as synonymous with Ousía, in opposition to Arianism: both parties were pronounced orthodox. The proceedings of the synod were conducted with so much wisdom and in so conciliatory a spirit as to command the approval of Gibbon.

After the synod Eusebius was sent to Antioch, where he found the Church in a state of great confusion, occasioned principally by the precipitancy of Lucifer. When Eustathius was deposed, though the Arians became the prevailing party at Antioch, the orthodox continued to hold their assemblies. On the translation of Eudoxius to Constantinople, the Arians appointed Meletius to succeed him. Meletius had been Bishop of Sebastia, whence he was translated to Beroea, and, as Bishop of Beroea, attended the Council of Seleucia, where he subscribed the creed set forth by Acacius. The Arians, therefore, conceiving him to hold their tenets, appointed him to Antioch: at first he treated only of questions of morals, avoiding all doctrinal points; but by degrees he began to teach the Nicene doctrine, and was in consequence removed by Constantius, who appointed Euzoius in his place. Many, however, of his hearers still followed him; but the members of the congregation who had adhered originally to Eustathius regarded him with suspicion, because he had been appointed by the Arians and his followers had received Arian baptism; they refused, therefore, to hold communion with him: thus, as Socrates observes, the Church was divided into two parties, agreeing with each other in point of doctrine. One object of the mission of Eusebius and Asterius was to heal this division; but on their arrival they found that Lucifer had already consecrated Paulinus bishop of the church which derived its succession from Eustathius. All the efforts of Eusebius to form a junction of the two parties were unavailing; Paulinus performed divine service in a small church which Euzoius from feelings of personal respect allowed him to retain ; Eustathius held his meetings without the walls of the city. The precipitancy and obstinacy of Lucifer multiplied the causes of dissension. Finding that Eusebius refused to recognize Paulinus, he treated the refusal as an insult to himself, broke off communion with Eusebius, and, in his anger, began to object to the easy terms on which the clergy, who had joined the Arians during their ascendancy under Constantius, had been restored by the synod at Alexandria to their position in the Church. Thus he formed a sect, which bore his name, and continued to exist in the time of Socrates; he himself returned to Sardinia.

If Athanasius had been allowed to remain in peace at Alexandria, he might have effected much towards the restoration of harmony, not only in that city, but throughout the Christian world. As, however, he had been driven from his bishopric by one Emperor on account of his uncompromising defence of the Catholic faith, he was now again to be driven from it by that Emperor’s successor on account of his active zeal in the maintenance of Christianity itself. Julian, having himself renounced it, was determined, by appealing to the fears or the interests of his subjects, to induce them to join him in his apostasy. Having learned, therefore, from the prefect of Egypt that all the attempts to reestablish the Gentile worship at Alexandria were frustrated by the preaching of Athanasius, and that converts were even made from heathenism to Christianity, he ordered the bishop to quit the city, threatening him with the severest punishment if he hesitated to obey the order. Athanasius resolved to obey; and said to his friends, who were weeping around him, “Be of good courage; this is a little cloud, which will soon pass away”; he then went on board a vessel in the Nile, with the view of escaping into Upper Egypt. A story in connection with his flight has been preserved, which the person who records it states himself to have heard from his mouth. He was advised to take refuge with Theodorus, the head of the monastery at Tabenne. In company with him in the vessel were Theodorus and the Abbot Pammo, and the wind proving contrary, in the disquietude of his heart he had recourse to prayer. The abbot began to console him, but he replied: “Believe me, I never feel the same confidence in time of peace which I feel in time of persecution. For I take courage from the assurance that suffering for Christ and being strengthened by his mercy, I shall, even if I am slain, find still greater mercy from Him”. While he was yet uttering these words, Theodorus, fixing his eyes on the abbot, smiled, and the abbot nearly laughed. Athanasius then inquired why they smiled, and whether they suspected him of cowardice. Theodorus answered: “At this very moment Julian is slain in Persia; and will be succeeded by an Emperor illustrious, indeed, but short-lived. Instead, therefore, of pursuing your route to the Thebais, go secretly to the court; you will meet him by the way, and will be well received by him; but he will quickly be removed from the world”.

Athanasius would not be unwilling to give credence to the intelligence of the death of Julian, from whatsoever source derived; but he does not appear to have adopted the advice of Theodorus: he did not repair to the court, but went to Alexandria immediately after Julian’s death. One of Jovian’s earliest acts, however, appears to have been to address a letter to Athanasius, inviting him to return to Alexandria. He afterwards wrote another letter, in which he requested the opinion of the bishop upon the points of doctrine on which the Church was divided. Athanasius thought it advisable, before he answered the letter, to I assemble some of the more eminent bishops, and by obtaining their concurrence to give greater authority to his reply. It contains, however, little more than a statement that the Catholic Church agreed in holding the Nicene faith.

In the meantime, the Arians were not idle. They went to the Emperor, who was then at Antioch, and petitioned him to give them a bishop, but not Athanasius, in the hope perhaps, that he would confirm the appointment of Lucius, whom they had chosen after the death of George of Cappadocia.

They alleged against Athanasius, that he had been banished both by Constantine and Constantius, that he had been guilty of various acts of oppression, and would not allow them to hold their religious assemblies. Athanasius appears to have been then at Antioch, either in consequence of a summons from Jovian, or having thought it advisable to go thither in order to answer in person the charges of his enemies. The result was altogether in his favor. The Emperor repelled the Arian delegates with strong expressions of anger and dislike, and uttered a somewhat uncharitable imprecation against Lucius.

The premature death of Jovian gave occasion to the renewal of the dissensions of the Church, and of the troubles of Athanasius. He was succeeded by Valentinian, who, immediately after his accession, associated his brother Valens to himself in the empire: both were sincere in the profession of Christianity; both had run the risk of incurring the displeasure of Julian by refusing to take part in the heathen rites; but Valentinian upheld the Homoousian creed, while Valens, who had been baptized by Eudoxius, was an Arian, and not content with favoring his own party, persecuted those whose belief differed from his own. Sozomen says that he gave orders for the expulsion from their bishoprics of all the bishops who, having been deposed by Constantius, had returned at the accession of Julian; but that when the Prefect of Egypt proceeded to carry this order into effect at Alexandria, the people showed so strong a determination to prevent the expulsion of Athanasius, that he thought it better to desist. Athanasius, however, left the city secretly, and so effectually concealed himself, as to baffle the pursuit of the Proefect; and Valens, after a short interval, allowed him to return and to resume his bishopric.

Valens, shortly after his accession to the empire, had been urged by the Macedonians to call a synod, and supposing them to agree in opinion with Acacius and Eudoxius, had consented. It met at Lampsacus, and having confirmed the profession of the Council of Antioch which they had subscribed at Seleucia, condemned that of Rimini. Valens was extremely incensed at the proceedings of the synod, and on his return after the defeat of Procopius, assembled a council of Arian bishops, who deposed Eleusius, the head of the Macedonian party, and substituted Eunomius in his place. The Macedonians determined to send delegates to Valentinian, and to Liberius, Bishop of Rome. The former was then occupied with the Sarmatian war, and could not, therefore, receive them; and Liberius at first hesitated, saying that they belonged to the Arian party. Being afterwards satisfied that they had abjured their error, and having obtained from them a subscription to an Homoousian creed, he addressed a letter to them, in which he bore testimony to their orthodoxy. This letter they caused to be circulated among all who held the Homoousian doctrine; and an attempt was made to convene a synod at Tarsus for its confirmation, but frustrated by the influence of Eudoxius with Valens.

Damasus had now succeeded Liberius in the bishopric of Rome; and Theodoret has preserved a letter, addressed by him and ninety bishops from Italy and Gaul, assembled at Rome, to the bishops of Illyricum, in which the proceedings of Valens at Nice are condemned, and the a subscriptions of the bishops are said to have been obtained by fraud.

The last public act of Athanasius appears to have been the calling together of a synod at Alexandria, by which a letter was addressed to the bishops of Africa for the purpose of exhorting them to adhere to the Nicene Confession, and not to be shaken in their minds by that which the Arians put forth as the confession of Rimini, but which was really that imposed upon the bishops at Nice. In this letter, reference is made to the council held by Damasus at Rome. But though no public act of Athanasius is recorded during the remaining years of his life, he still continued to watch over the purity of Christian doctrine; and finding that the errors of Apollinarius were widely circulated, he wrote in confutation of them the two tracts which purport to be expressly directed against that heretic, and the Epistle to Epictetus.

The Benedictine editor places his death, AD 373. His character has been drawn with a masterly hand by Gibbon, who was fully competent to appreciate his intellectual and moral qualities:—his quickness and clearness of perception; his patience of labor; his unflinching, yet well-regulated, courage; his steadfastness of purpose; his knowledge of human nature; and that which is the surest mark of a great mind, his power of swaying the wills and the affections of all who came within the sphere of his influence. But Gibbon, himself an unbeliever, and regarding the questions on which the life of Athanasius was employed as scarcely worthy to occupy the thoughts and talents of a rational being, could not appreciate, for he could not understand, the feeling which was the main-spring of the whole conduct of Athanasius, which prompted his exertions and supported him amidst all the vicissitudes of his chequered career, amidst the persecutions, the privations, the dangers to which he was subjected—the intensity of his zeal for the preservation of the integrity and purity of the Christian faith. That zeal in the eye of the skeptical historian assumed the character of fanaticism. In order, therefore, to fill up what is defective in the portrait which he has drawn, I will add the estimate formed by a Christian philosopher of the services which Athanasius was appointed to render to the cause of Christianity. “Of whom (Athanasius) we can think no otherwise than as a person highly instrumental and serviceable to Divine Providence for the preserving of the Christian Church from lapsing, by Arianism, into a kind of Paganic and idolatrous Christianity, in religiously worshipping of those whom themselves concluded to be creatures; and by means of whom especially the doctrine of the Trinity, which before fluctuated in some loose uncertainty, came to be more punctually stated and settled”.