HISTORY OF THE CHURCH FROM THE EDICT OF MILAN,
TO THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON,
MARTYRS. The Church has rest. Donatism. Death of Maximin. Ancyra. Neocaesarea. Council of Arles. Quiet Days. Licinian Persecution. Arius. His Argument. Athanasius. The Power of Arianism. Recall of Donatists. The Eusebii. Alexander's Encyclic. The "Thalia". Constantine's aspect towards Christianity. The Homoousion. Council of Nicaea meets. Arius examined. Trickery of Eusebians. The Creed. Other Questions. The Council closed
Death of S. Alexander. Helena at Jerusalem. The Cross and the Sepulchre. Consecration of S. Athanasius. S. Frumentius. S. Nina. Recall of Arius. Deposition of Eustathius. Charges against Athanasius. Case of Ischyras. Case of Arsenius. Council of Tyre. The Mareotis Commission. Council of Jerusalem. First Exile of Athanasius. Marcellus. Death of Arius. Death of Constantine. Return of Athanasius. Council of the Dedication. Gregory at Alexandria. Second Exile of Athanasius. Persecution in Persia. Theophilus the Indian. Council of Sardica. Secession of Eusebians. Act of the Council
Photinus condemned. Donatus. The "Macarian Times". Council of Carthage. Letter of Pope Julius. Flavian and Diodore. Return of Athanasius. Death of Constans. Martyrdom of Paul. The Anomoion. New Accusations. The Homoiousion. The Homoion. Council of Arles. Council of Milan. Weakness of Bishops. Persecution. Liberius exiled. Hosius exiled. Death of S. Antony. Syrianus' Irruption. Outrages at Alexandria. Intrusion of George. Exile of S. Hilary. Egyptian Monasteries. Retreat of S. Athanasius
Fall of Hosius. Fall of Liberius. S. Basil in Pontus. Cyril deposed. Council of Ancyra. Hilary's "De Synodis". The Dated Creed. Council of Ariminum. Deputations to Constantius. Council of Seleucia. Conference at Nice. Council of Ariminum yields. Triumph of Acacianism. Council of Constantinople. Eudoxius at Constantinople. Macedonianism. Hilary in Gaul. Meletius. Arian Creeds. Aerius. Death of Constantius .
Julian's Apostasy. His treatment of Christians. Christian Zealots. Murder of George. Return of S. Athanasius. Council of Alexandria. Lucifer at Antioch. The Peace-makers. Donatists recalled. Donatist Tyranny. Julian at Antioch. Fourth Exile of Athanasius. The Attempt at Jerusalem. Death of Julian. Council of Alexandria. Jovian and the Arians. Jovian's Policy. Valentinian and Valens. Council of Lampsaeus. Deputation to Liberius. Easterns conform. Damasus and Ursinus. Ursinus expelled. Council of Tyana. Edict of Valens
Fifth Exile of S. Athanasius. Council of Laodicea. Council of Rome. Epistle "ad Afros." S. Basil consecrated. Persecution. Athanasius and Basil. Basil and Modestus. Basil and Valens. Apollinarianism. Gregory consecrated. Death of S. Athanasius. His Character. Persecution at Alexandria. Labours of Martin. Basil and Eustathius. Exile of Eusebius. Ambrose consecrated. Troubles of Basil. Gratian. Ulphilas. Epiphanius. Question of "the Hypostases". Jerome and Damasus. "Tome of the Westerns". Recall of Exiles. Death of S. Basil .
S. Gregory at Constantinople. Council of Gangra. Edict of Theodosius. Priscillian. Council of Saragossa. Gregory in S. Sophia. Chrysostom. Council of Constantinople. Gregory resigns. Nectarius. The Creed re-edited. Canons. The Hierarchy. Rome and Constantinople. Council of Aquileia. Jerome at Rome. The altar of Victory. Augustine at Rome. Manicheism. Augustine at Milan. Ambrose and Symmachus. Priscillian executed. Justina's first attempt The Portian Church. Jerome leaves Rome. Progress of Augustine. Justina's second attempt. Discovery of Relics. Conversion of S. Augustine
S. Martin at Treves. Sedition at Antioch. Flavian's Pleading. Baptism of S. Augustine. S. Ambrose at Treves. Theodosius at Milan. Theodosius at Rome. Jerome at Betblehem. Jovinian. Massacre at Thessalonica. Penance of Theodosius. Penitential Usages. Theodosius absolved. The Serapeum. The Massalians. Murder of Valentinian II. Great Law against Idolatry. The Maximianists. Jerome and Ruffinus. Epiphanius in Palestine. Origenistic Controversy. Battle of Aquileia. Paulinus at Nola. Death of Theodosius. Augustine as a Pastor. His Consecration. Death of S. Ambrose
S. Ninian. Third Council of Carthage. Death of S. Martin. "Candida Casa". S. Chrysostom consecrated. The "De Principiis". "Fourth Council of Carthage". Eutropius. Theophilus abandons Origenism. First Council of Toledo. Writings of S. Augustine.—S. Chrysostom at Ephesus. The Tall Brothers. Theophilus at Constantinople. Council of the Oak. Chrysostom's Ejection and Return. Death of Paula. Sacrileges at Constantinople. Chrysostom's Second Exile. Persecution of Joannites. Donatist Outrages. Pelagius. Chrysostom at Cucusus. Atticus. Joannites in Exile. Vigilantius. Pagans invade Gaul. Death of S. Chrysostom
Theodosius II. Siege of Rome. Coelestius. Paulinus. Synesius. Taking of Rome. Andronicus. Conference of Carthage. Council of Braga. Trial of Coelestius. His Condemnation. Augustine and the Pelagians. Death of Theophilus. End of Antiochene Schism. Violences at Alexandria. Orosius. Conference at Jerusalem. Council of Diospolis. Theodore. Council of Carthage. Council of Milevum.
Cyril and Atticus. Coelestius at Rome. Pelagius' Confession. Zosimus deceived. He is resisted. Council of Carthage. S. Germain. Letter of Zosimus. Julian condemned. Predestinarianism. Boniface and Eulalius. Case of Apiarius. Gaudentius. Death of S. Jerome. Persecution in Persia. Dispute as to Illyricum. Antony of Fussala. Case of Apiarius closed.Disputes at Adrumetum. Semi-Pelagianism. Leporius. Nestorius. Vandals in Africa. Teaching of Gallicans. Augustine's Statements. Grace and Free-Will
Origin of Nestorianism. "Theotocos". Sermon of Proclus. Reply of Nestorius. The Question at Issue. S. Cyril's Letter to the Monks. His First Letter to Nestorius. Cassian's Treatise. S. Germain in Britain. Second Letter to Nestorius. His Reply. Cyril writes to Theodosius. Council of Rome. Death of S. Augustine. Third Letter to Nestorius. A General Council summoned. Nestorius and Theodoret. Bishops at Ephesus. The Council opened. First Session. Nestorius condemned. John of Antioch arrives. The Roman Legates. Definition of Doctrine. The "Rights of Cyprus." Canons
Count John. Dalmatius. Cyril's Explanations. The Deputies. Maximian consecrated. S. Palladius. Death of Coelestine. Council at Antioch. Eastern Dissensions. S. Patrick. Paul of Emesa. Formulary of Union. Paul's Sermons. S. Cyril and John united. Anger of Nestorianizers. Perplexity of Cyril's friends. "One Incarnate Nature". Vincent of Lérins. S. Proclus. Exile of Alexander. Nestorianism in Persia. Tome of S. Proclus. The Memory of Theodore. Taking of Carthage. Council of Riez. Death of Sixtus. Accession of S. Leo
First Council of Orange. Manicheans at Rome. Death of S. Cyril. Dioscorus. Death of Nestorius. Case of Celidonius. Claims of Leo. He breaks with Hilary. Rescript of Valeutinian. S. Germain again in Britain. Priscillianists. The "Eranistes". Letters of Theodoret. His Confession of Orthodoxy. Ibas of Edessa. Eutyches accused. "Two Natures". Trial of Eutyches. He is condemned. Trial of Ibas. A General Council summoned. Death of S. Hilary. The Council meets at Ephesus. —Eutyches acquitted. Martyrdom of S. Flavian. The "Latrocinium"
Synod of Rome. Theodoret writes to S. Leo. Arguments of S. Leo. Pulcheria and Marcian. Attila in Gaul. A New Council summoned. It meets at Chalcedon. Theodoret admitted. First Session. Trial of Dioscorus. He is deposed. S. Leo's Tome approved. Egyptian Suffragans. "Of Two Natures". "In Two Natures". Theodoret and Ibas. Canons. Twenty-eighth Canon. The Legates object to it. It is confirmed. Synodal Letters. Position of S. Leo
I. The Canons of Nicaea
II. From the Tome of S. Leo
III. Principal Events
THE following account of the Church's general progress, from the close of the age of Heathen persecution to the doctrinal settlement effected by the Fourth Ecumenical Council, is based substantially on what I had formerly occasion to prepare for my pupils at Trinity College, Glenalmond. I would fain hope that it may to some extent enable the younger students of Ecclesiastical History, and general readers interested in the subject, to increase their knowledge of a period which is second in importance to the Apostolic age alone.
Those who study such a period may be warned against two extremes, disguised in the garb of reverence and of candour. It is possible to make facts give way to an ideal, to forget that wrong is wrong in the orthodox, and to judge their opponents without equity. It is also possible, in reaction from this unfairness, to approach the subject as it were ab extra, to be cold or hostile to the great Church leaders, and to reserve one’s tenderness for heresiarchs. Modern tendencies run strongly against the first of these two methods, but give some encouragement to the second. I trust that in these pages there will be found no trace of either.
One brief but most majestic Psalm, which contributes to our Easter gladness, may well be in our thoughts as we contemplate the early triumphs of Christ's kingdom. “When Israel came out of Egypt, and the house of Jacob from among the strange people”, there was in it far more of unfaithfulness to a high vocation than in the Church of Athanasius and Augustine, of Chrysostom and Leo. Yet “the sea saw and fled, Jordan was driven back”, because “Judah was His sanctuary, and Israel His dominion”. And so the Church held on her way,—not without spot or blemish, not without struggle and suffering,—yet still beautiful and “terrible as an army with banners”, victorious by the strength of her faith in one royal and world-redeeming Name.
From the Edict of Milan to the Council of Nicaea.
"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn."
Isa. liv. 17.
IN the spring of A.D. 313 the universal Church was enjoying rest from the last of the great persecutions. This deadly struggle between the worldly and spiritual kingdoms had begun in the February of 303; but since the abdication of Diocletian in 305 it had been mainly confined to the East. It had reinforced the "white-robed host of martyrs" from all classes of Christians, and by all forms of agonizing death. The Church had been full of those grand endurances which S. Ambrose calls "aeterna Christi munera"; wherein
the yearning faith of saints,
The unconquered hope that never faints,
The love of Christ that knows not shame,
The prince of this world overcame.
Among the martyred bishops were Anthimus of Nicomedia, beheaded; Tyrannio of Tyre, drowned; Sylvanus of Emesa, flung to wild beasts; Irenaeus of Sirmium, whose faith withstood the entreaties of wife and children; Felix of Tubiza, who, being commanded to surrender the Scriptures, persisted in answering, "Habeo, sed non do", and thanked God that, after a virginal life of fifty-six years, he was now in Christ’s cause to bend his neck to the slaughter; Phileas of Thmuis, who has left a vivid picture of Egyptian martyrdoms, and in the moment of his own gave glory to the “spotless and infinite One, the First and the Last”; Peter of Alexandria, whose humility would not let him sit down on “the throne of the Evangelist”, and whose wisdom and charity are embodied in his Penitential Canons. Among the clergy were Vincent of Saragossa,—as noble a deacon. martyr as S. Laurence; Romanus of Caesarea, a deacon and exorcist; Zenobius, a priest who expired under torture; Pamphilus, renowned for his learning and his intimacy with the Church-historian Eusebius; Valens, a venerable deacon who had Scripture laid up in his memory; Lucian of Antioch, the editor of the Septuagint, who had for some time been connected with heresy, but lived to be a martyr in the Church; Saturninus, an African, who, when tortured with other Christians for celebrating the Sunday service, replied to the proconsul, “It is the command of our Law”. Among the people were Alban, the British protomartyr : Peter the chamberlain, and others of “Caesar's household”; George, (if we may trust the obscure tradition,) a military officer; Sebastian, who held a similar rank; Genesius, an actor, who is said to have been converted while engaged in a mimicry of baptism. Among the women, youths, and children, were Agnes at Rome, Eulalia in Spain, Theodora in Egypt, Ennathas in Palestine, illustrious as virgin-martyrs; Afra, a penitent at Augsburg, whose thoughts recurred to the Feet that had been washed with tears; Pancras, a boy of fourteen, at Rome; Apphianus, a youth of twenty, at Caesarea; Porphyry, the young servant of Pamphilus; Cyriac, a child who shared in his mother’s martyrdom.
Many also there were whose sufferings came short of death, but who were maimed, or blinded, or sent to the mines or into dreary exile, or sold as slaves, or expelled from the army, or deprived of property or of civil rights. If there were some apostates, as Stephen, bishop of Laodicea, a man of more learning than faith, and others who became “traditors”, that is, gave up the sacred books and vessels or other church furniture,—there were, on the other hand, instances of that over-forwardness which the Church condemned in general as a virtual tempting of God. It is impossible for us fully to conceive the varied trials which a persecution brought to bear upon men’s faith : the rending asunder of family ties, the perpetual insecurity, the anticipations of intense agony, the “horrible dread” of giving way under its pressure; the actual inflictions which became a routine with Roman magistrates,—the iron hooks that laid the bones bare, the “little horse” that wrenched them asunder, and drew forth such cries as “Gratias Tibi ago, Domine; pro nomine Tuo da sufferentiam”; the boiling pitch, the melted lead, the fire, the wild beasts, and other tortures too hideous to describe. In their eagerness to uproot the faith, the persecuting rulers took pains to fill the schools with text-books which insulted its Author, and the markets with food that had come in contact with idolatrous sacrifices. They had, in short, left nothing untried; and a monument in Spain had prematurely boasted of their success :—“Diocletian Augustus”, it was said, “had abolished the superstition of Christ”. “Against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel”.
And now He had made the storm to cease. Galerius had died, in 311, by the fearful disease that smote Antiochus and Agrippa : his last act had been an edict of toleration and an entreaty for Christian prayers. Constantine had won Rome,—by his own account to Eusebius, after the vision of the luminous cross,—and Maxentius had been “swept away” by the Tiber. Diocletian had died of grief on bearing the news. Constantine and Licinius had proclaimed toleration of all religious sects, apparently under certain conditions; whereupon Maximin, the sovereign of the East, preeminent for his savage hatred of Christianity, issued an order that no force should be used against it. The edict of the two Western emperors having failed to re-assure all persons, a second edict was framed at Milan, in the spring of 313, which proclaimed an absolute and unconditional toleration, alike of Christianity and of all other religions,—and added a special order for the restoration of all buildings and places which had belonged to “the Christian body”;— the individuals who were thus to restore them were to be rewarded by the government. No profession of Christianity was made by the emperors; they trusted by this decree to win the favor of “whatever divinity might reign in heaven”.
The Edict of Milan, then, did not establish Christianity as the state-religion; its effect was to annul all legal hindrances to liberty of worship, and to recognize the Christians as a body known to the law. A separate ordinance, addressed to Anulinus, proconsul of Africa, interpreted “Christian body” to mean the Catholic Church. This was to exclude the new sect, afterwards called that of the Donatists, which had sprung up in the preceding year, and had separated from the communion of Caecilian, bishop of Carthage, on the ground that his consecrator, Felix of Aptunga, had been a traditor, and that he himself had cruelly punished the confessors who had courted persecution by preventing their friends from coming to relieve their wants. Instead of him the schismatics acknowledged Majorinus as bishop of Carthage. The moral groundwork of this Numidian sect was a gloomy zeal, without humility or love, for the purity of the Church; a zeal which could ally itself with the grossest violence and injustice, and with personal spite of the basest kind. Constantine ordered the African government to proceed against all who “persevered in this madness, seducing the Catholic people by an unprincipled imposture” : while he made over a large sum to Caecilian for the use of the clergy of the “legitimate and most holy” religion, and exempted them from burdens of public office, that they might be free to serve the Empire by their prayers. The schismatics, on their part, sent in an accusation of Caecilian, and supplicated the “best of emperors” to have the case tried by judges from Gaul : an appeal to the civil power which for many years gave point to the invectives of the Catholics.
DEATH OF MAXIMIN.
Meantime, the career of Maximin was hastening to its end. He had not allowed to the Christians, whom his recent order had secured from violence, any liberty of assembling for worship; and now, throwing off the mask, he declared war. Licinius overthrew him at Hadrianople on May 1. In his despair, Maximin put forth an edict equivalent to that of Milan; slew many of the pagan diviners who had assured him of victory; and, finally, took poison at Tarsus. His death was a long agony; in his frenzy he dashed his head against the wall, and the Christians believed that at length, when his sight was gone, a vision of Divine judgment made him cry out as one under torture, “God is there, with attendants in white, giving sentence against me. It was not I—it was the others!”. At length—so runs the Christian story—his anguish wrung from him a confession of guilt, and a piteous appeal to the mercy of the Saviour
Constantine had now leisure to attend to the case of the African schism. At his desire, Melchiades, bishop of Rome, with several other prelates, held a Council in the Lateran palace at Romeo, (Oct. 10, 313,) before which appeared Donatus, bishop of Casae Nigrae, and other accusers of Caecilian. The question as to Felix of Aptunga was not entertained; as to the personal charges against Caecilian, the Council insisted on distinct, tangible evidence, and this was not forthcoming; while, on the other hand, Caecilian accused Donatus of having reiterated, in some cases, baptism and imposition of hands. The Council set aside the judgment pronounced against Caecilian in his absence by Numidian bishops in the interest of his enemies, affirmed him to be innocent and worthy of communion, but condemned Donatus alone of his accusers, and offered to recognize, in cases of rival bishops, the prelate who might be senior in consecration. Caecilian, for the sake of peace, was detained by Constantine in Italy; while two bishops, after making enquiry into the case in Africa, pronounced his adherents to be the true African Church. The case of Felix was examined on the spot by the proconsul, who found the evidence for his having been a traditor to be the forgery of a malignant scribe. The schismatics, still dissatisfied, asked for a council of all the Western bishops; and such an assembly was summoned to meet at Arles. Before it assembled, a small council was held (about Easter, 314,) at Ancyra in Galatia, chiefly on the case of those who bad lapsed in the persecution. Its most important canon, the thirteenth, forbids an inferior class of consecrated bishops, named chorepiscopi, to ordain priests or deacons, still less to ordain city-priests, except by written leave from the bishop. The Council also speaks of the three higher classes of penitents, the Hearers, the Kneelers, and those who were allowed to join in the prayers of the Eucharist, without actually receiving the oblation, and who are commonly known as the “Consistentes”. The lowest class was that of “Weepers”. The tenth canon of Ancyra forbids deacons who marry to keep their offices, unless at ordination they intimated their intention to marry. Another Council, contemporaneous with this, was that of Neocaesarea, the capital of Cappadocia, where S. Gregory the Wonder-worker had in the former century been bishop. This assembly decreed that a priest who should marry must lose his office; denounced the marriage of a woman with two brothers successively; forbade, in ordinary cases, the ordination of one who had been “illuminated” (i. e. baptized) during illness, because such a person’s faith “is of constraint, not of free will”; spoke of “offering” (the Eucharist) as the great priestly duty; asserted the superiority of city-priests to country-priests, and, on the ground of Acts VI., fixed seven as the maximum for the deacons of every city.
COUNCIL OF ARLES.
The Council of Arles met on Aug. 1, 314. Sylvester, now bishop of Rome, was represented by four clergy, but Marinus of Arles was president. About four hundred bishops appeared; among whom were Eborius of York, Restitutus of London, and Adelphius of Lincoln. Again Caecilian’s cause was triumphant. Besides the sentence against his enemies, twenty-two canons were passed, the most important of which were,—the first, which ordained that Easter should be kept by all on one day, and that the Bishop of Rome should write to all, according to usage, respecting that day in each year; the eighth, which ordained that converts from heresy, who could show that they had been baptized in the Name of the Trinity, should “receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands”, but that those who could not should receive baptism; and the fifteenth, which emphatically prohibited deacons from offering the Holy Eucharist.
To Constantine's extreme disgust, the defeated schismatics appealed to him against the Council. “The judgment of bishops” (so he wrote to the members of the Council) “ought to be regarded as a judgment of the Lord Himself”. To ignore the heavenly sentence and to demand a secular one was, in his view, an insane imitation of heathen fashions. What could these men think of Christ their Saviour? The act, of itself, stamped them as traitors. Yet he consented to receive their appeal, “intending afterwards to make his excuses to the bishops”, and being minded to leave the appellants without excuse for further obstinacy. After some changes of purpose as to the scene of this new hearing, he confronted Caecilian with the appellants at Milan in 316. The result was that he wrote, on Nov. 10, to Eumalius, the “Vicar” of Africa, :—“I have found Caecilian to be a person thoroughly innocent, and faithfully observant of all the duties of his religion. It plainly appeared that no crime could be proved against him” .
In the first moments of his indignation against the accusers, Constantine thought of putting them to death. But he contented himself with issuing decrees of banishment, and expelling the schismatics from the churches. It is uncertain at what time the schismatical episcopate at Carthage began to be held by the second and more eminent Donatus, from whom the party took its name.
While the African Church was harassed by Donatism, in other provinces the faithful had an interval of tranquil sunshine between the storm of persecution that had passed away and the more terrible storm of heresy that was at hand. “There sprang up for us all”, says Eusebius, “a heaven-sent joy”. It seemed a fulfillment of the prophecy, “My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation”. The worship of the Church was celebrated with all that stateliness which even in earlier times, whenever she had the opportunity, was the natural expression of her faith and love. —She could worship, if need were, in catacombs; but even in her days of depression, the rich lamps and the golden altar-vessels witnessed for the principle of sacred splendor, and prophesied of the cathedrals that were to be. There had been magnificent churches in the Christendom of the third century; but now the sanctuaries that arose were like “high palaces”, and all the skill of sculptor and architect was tasked to make them a glorious thank-offering. Such was the new cathedral at Tyre, erected by the Bishop Paulinus and his flock, the dedication of which was marked by a florid sermon from Eusebius
But in those Eastern provinces which Licinius still retained, after his unsuccessful war with Constantine in 314, the Church had new sufferings to undergo. Licinius, who hated Christianity, began to impede the action of the Church system by forbidding the bishops to hold synods, and thus compelling them, as Eusebius says, either to violate his commands or to nullify the institutions of the Church; “for no otherwise than by synods could great questions be settled”. Gradually he went further in the path of persecution : forbidding Church services within cities, “because the country air was purer”; forbidding women to worship with men, “lest public morality should suffer”; casting off his loyal Christian servants, and at length commanding all his soldiers to sacrifice on pain of dismissal. Then came an outbreak of the old persecutors’ fury : bishops were again, as formerly, the special victims of an emperor’s hatred. One was cut in pieces; another, Paul of Neocaarea, had his hands disabled with hot iron. At Sebaste forty Christian soldiers were stripped and exposed to the piercing Armenian winter. According to the story, they kept on praying, “As forty have entered the stadium, 0 Lord, let forty win the crown!”. One of them gave way, and sought the warm shelter which was offered to apostates; whereupon the guard, suddenly converted, took his place, and completed the roll of the Forty Martyrs.
This trouble, however, was soon to pass away. Not so that other affliction then beginning, so terrible in its early strength, so wonderfully enduring in its consequences, which was brought upon the Church by the heresy of a priest at Alexandria.
Several years before the martyrdom of Bishop Peter, a schism had been formed in Egypt under Meletius, bishop of Lycopolis, which took for its watchword the purity of Church discipline. The character of Meletius is to this day a problem. Among his adherents was a Libyan named Arius, who on returning to Church unity was ordained deacon by Peter, and afterwards, on giving fresh proofs of spiritual disloyalty, was excommunicated. Peter, we are told, refused in his last days to take off the censure, foreseeing that Arius would rend the Church. Achillas, who succeeded Peter in 312, was so indulgent as to readmit Arius into communion, and ordain him priest for the most important charge in Alexandria : the name of this church was Baucalis. Achillas was succeeded by Alexander in 313; and Arius continued under him to hold a high position among the parish priests, as we should call them, of the city. The notion that he resented Alexander's election seems to rest on insufficient evidence.
In the year 319, the sixth of Alexander's prelacy, he addressed his clergy, at some length, on the supreme mystery of the Triune Godhead. The Father and the Son, he insisted, were of one essence and co-equal majesty. Arius protested against this statement, as amounting to that Sabellian heresy which had confounded the Persons, and been denounced by Dionysius, one of the greatest of Alexander’s predecessors. He then proceeded to argue :—The Father is a Father, the Son is a Son. Therefore the Father must have existed before the Son. Therefore, once the Son was not. Therefore, He was wade, like all creatures, of a substance that had not previously existed.
This was the essence of Arius’ teaching. Trained in the schools of disputatious logic at Antioch, and by temperament devoid of reverence, he had accustomed himself to think nothing too majestic for the grasp of a syllogistic formula. He took his stand on the assumption that such a formula could comprehend the Infinite; that he could argue irresistibly from human sonship to divine. And yet his argument, to thoughtful minds, was self-destructive; for it began by insisting on the truth of our Lord's Sonship, and ended by making Him wholly alien from the essence of the Father.
Before this public avowal of his opinions, it appears that Arius had disseminated them in private. We can form, by means of the descriptions which have come down to us, a vivid image of the great heresiarch. There might be seen in Alexandrian streets and houses a tall, elderly man, in a half-cloak and a short tunic, with a worn, pallid face, and downcast eyes. The quiet gravity of his bearing, — the sweet persuasive voice, with its ready greetings and its fluent logic,—had a wonderful fascination for several of his brother-clergy, a large body of laymen, and many of the consecrated virgins. Alexander at first endeavored to reclaim him by holding conferences in which the subject was discussed. But these proved ineffectual: so that the Archbishop, who had already been blamed for too great forbearance,—on the ground of which a priest named Colluthus had actually set up a sect of his own, and pretended to confer holy orders, —was obliged to employ the censures of the Church. He pronounced the Arian doctrine an impiety; commanded Arius to retract, and on his refusal, excommunicated him. He wrote a letter to Arius’ partisans, exhorting them to submit to the faith; and the great majority of the priests and deacons subscribed this letter. Among the deacons was a young man of twenty-four or thereabouts, who had been carefully educated for the service of the Church, and had already distinguished himself by treatises “against the Gentiles”, and “on the Incarnation”. His name was Athanasius.
The excitement was rather increased than abated by this proceeding. The Arian party grew daily in strength and boldness; the women especially were in the forefront of the faction, and were employed to support the accusations which its leaders brought before the civil courts, against the Archbishop and the faithful. There seemed to be every prospect of an Alexandrian sedition, with all its terrible phenomena, in behalf of a doctrine which amounted to apostasy from Christ. Alexander summoned a council of nearly a hundred bishops, who owed obedience to his seer. It was ascertained by this assembly that, in Arius’ view, the Son of God was the first of creatures, and in that sense the Only-begotten; created after the image of the Divine Wisdom, and therefore called the Word; created in order that by His means God might create us; incapable of thoroughly knowing either the Father’s nature or His own. One awful question remained. The Arians were asked whether this exalted creature could change from good to evil? They answered, “Yes, He can”. The Council replied to this fearful utterance by a solemn anathema against Arius, with two bishops who adhered to him, Secundus and Theonas, five priests, and six deacons.—Two other priests and four other deacons were either then or soon afterwards included in the condemnation.
We can never understand the history of an error until we to some extent appreciate its attractions. What was the charm that Arianism possessed, during so many years, for adherents so diverse both in race and character? First, it was a form of rationalism, and therefore a relief to minds that shrunk from so awful a mystery as the Incarnation of the Eternal. Secondly, it was a vague, elastic creed, congenial to those who disliked all definite doctrine. Thirdly, it appealed to many by its affinity to older heresies. Fourthl-, its assertion of a created and inferior godhead would come home to persons in transition from polytheism to Christianity. Fifthly, the scope which it practically allowed to a profane and worldly temper was agreeable to the multitudes for whom the Church was too austere, who desired a relaxed and adapted Gospel. Lastly, who can tell how many simple souls were allured by the promise of a safeguard against Sabellianism, or against “carnal views” of the nature of God?
RECALL OF DONATISTS.
These events happened in 320 and 321. At the same time, the regions westward of Alexander’s patriarchate (if we may here apply that term by anticipation) were again disturbed by the Donatist troubles. One of the schismatic prelates, Silvanus of Cirta, was denounced before the civil court as a traditor and a simonist. The accuser was Nundinarius, a deacon whom he had deposed, and whom he had refused to receive again into favor. Zenophilus, who tried the case, found Silvanus guilty, and sent him into banishment. Another officer named Ursacius seems to have acted with Zenophilus, and incurred the hatred of the party. But shortly afterwards the Donatists requested Constantine to stop the persecution which they had endured for disowning “that worthless bishop of his”. The Emperor, by a letter of May 5, 321, recalled them from exile, at the same time expressing his detestation of their violence, and declaring that he left them to the judgment of Gods. And it was probably about this time that he exhorted the Catholics to wait patiently for a Divine relief from their afflictions. The extraordinary audacity of the Donatists is shown by his own words : “Whatever sufferings may be inflicted by their fury will be counted as martyrdom in the sight of God”. It can hardly be doubted that he refers to the outrages of those wild fanatical peasants who derived from their original habits of begging from cottage to cottage the name of circumcellions. We shall hear more of them at a later period; it may suffice to say that the strange frenzy which made them, in many cases, rush upon their death in the cause of Donatism, had previously led them to court martyrdom at the hands of pagans on festivals of the gods. Their organization, as a Donatist force, became more perfect afterwards; but they seem to have been in these early days of the schism a terror to the defenseless Catholics. Encouraged by the revocation of penal edicts, the Donatists sent a bishop named Victor to Rome. He could not gain admission into any church, and was reduced to assemble his small flock of Africans outside the city, in a cavern on a hill, whence they derived the contemptuous epithet of “Montenses”.
To return to the Arian history. Deprived of a home in Alexandria, Arius wrote to the Bishop of Nicomedia, who had been bred in the same school with him at Antioch. His name was Eusebius. He had procured by court interest a translation from the see of Berytus; and he now possessed the ear of Constantine. Arius complained to this unprincipled and ambitious man that he was “unjustly persecuted by the Pope Alexander for denying the eternity of the Son. The Son, he insisted, must be a creature, although He might be entitled perfect God”.
Having quitted Egypt, Arius visited Palestine. Eusebius the historian, bishop of Caesarea, was one of the prelates on whom he relied; and although the extent of his sympathy with Arianism has been disputed, it may be truly said that “his acts are his confession”. Nor did he “scruple to say plainly that Christ was not true God”; a saying which has been coupled with that of a thoroughgoing Arian, Athanasius of Anazarbus, that Christ was “one of the hundred sheep”. Macarius of Jerusalem, and Philogonius the patriarch of Antioch, would have nothing to say to Arianism. Alexander sent letter after letter to the Syrian bishops, some of whom answered as if agreeing with his view, while others avowed their feeling for Arius. But if Palestine was doubtful, Nicomedia was committed to his side; and there he found a welcome from Eusebius, who had written to him, “Since your sentiments are good, pray that all may adopt them : for it is plain to any one that what has been made was not, before its generation”.
Arius and his companions wrote to their Archbishop, from Nicomedia, a letter which has been reckoned the first of the Arian creeds. They addressed him respectfully as their “blessed Pope”, and referred to his own alleged teaching. They spoke of the Son as “God’s perfect creature, but not as one of the creatures”. He was not, they affirmed, of the Father’s essence—for that would imply a materialistic view, He was said to be generated before all time, but still to have come into existence, so that He was not before His generation. Eusebius urged Paulinus of Tyre to declare himself, and insisted that Prov. VIII. 22 made the Son a creature, and that even the dewdrops were called the offspring of God. The bishops of Bithynia, under the guidance of Eusebius, pronounced Arius worthy of their communion, and put forth a circular letter to all prelates, requesting them to mediate between Alexander and the friends of Arius. The Archbishop of Alexandria, on his side, issued an encyclic to all Catholic bishops, in which he gave a history of the schism; set forth the Arian propositions with a comment which became proverbial, “Who ever yet heard such things?” and arrayed Scripture texts against them, with the Scriptural predictions of an apostasy which the faithful must abhor. He caused his own priests and deacons to subscribe this letter, as they had subscribed the one addressed to the Arians. Arius, wishing by all means to popularize his views, embodied them in a poem called Thalia, in a metre which had very evil associations. Describing himself as a “well-known sufferer for God’s glory”, he spoke of the Son as “not equal, no, nor one in essence with the Father”, but a creature of His will, called into existence at a certain period, capable of knowing Him only in part. From this “store of all irreligion”, and from the songs which he wrote for sailors, travellers, and millers, arose in great measure that storm of Arian irreverence, which varied the talk of the shop or the bath by flippant denials of the Co-equality, and assailed the very boys and women in the market with scoffing questions about an Eternal Son.
After this Arius returned to Palestine, and was permitted by Eusebius of Caesarea and other bishops to form a distinct congregation, on condition that he did his utmost to be reconciled to Alexander. This permission is alluded to in a long letter from Alexander to his namesake of Byzantium, preserved by Theodoret, which may be taken as a sample of the mass of letters which he wrote against Arianism. He denounces the Arians for their heathenish and Judaic views of Christ, for their persecuting violence, their intellectual arrogance, their disingenuous pretenses. He insists on the doctrine of an Eternal Father and an Eternal Son, whose sonship is by essence, and not by adoption. This doctrine involves no Sabellianism, no Ditheism, no partition of the Divine essence, no denial of the Father’s prerogative as the Unbegotten. One remarkable point in this letter is that it speaks of Mary as “the Mother of God”; another, that it avows the inadequacy of human language for the full expression of a transcendant mystery. It appears from the letter that Alexander had framed a formulary of doctrine, which he requested the Byzantine prelate to subscribe.
While the controversy was thus raging, Constantine had been at war with Licinius. The latter was overthrown in 323, and the conqueror then assumed a more distinctively Christian attitude. Priests had accompanied him in the late campaign; he had been wont to pray, before a battle, in a tent where the cross was erected; he wrote letters, acknowledging that the only true God had given him victory. It would be monstrous that “God's servant” should be neglectful of His confessors; therefore the Emperor recalled all Christian exiles, readmitted Christian soldiers to the army, set free all who had been enslaved, restored property to confessors and heirs of martyrs, and to the Church as a corporation. He caused himself to be painted as in the act of prayer, and with a cross over his head and a transfixed serpent under his feet. In a letter to the Eastern provincials, he pointed out the judgments which had fallen on the persecutors; but while recommending the religion which God had visibly supported, he promised that it should be forced upon none. Hence we must suppose that the edicts which he issued against sacrifices had reference to some magical rites, and to the offerings made in the Emperor's name. He showed himself zealous against impure idolatries, and earnestly desirous of the Church’s extension. Having already commanded “Sunday” observance, he gave an example of attendance on other festivals, and supplied a blaze of lights for the Paschal vigil. He built churches, and contributed to their splendor : crosses bright with precious stones, and probably stone altars, began to appear under his encouragement. The Emperor became a lecturer on religion, and spoke in grave and solemn tones on the Divine unity, on salvation, and on the account to be rendered. Was he sincere in all this? Most probably he had a genuine belief in the Christian system, so far as he understood it : but he knew little of its teaching as a dogma, or of its demands as a law. Hence, while he gave much to his religion, he did not give himself. A strange inconsistency distinguished his religious position; and bishops, too ready to become courtiers, allowed a prince who had not asked for baptism to dogmatize on things pertaining to God, and to call himself “a bishop for the external relations” of the Church.
Public peace was Constantine’s first object; and now, after all his trouble with the Donatists, he was sorely disappointed to find in the East a wider and deadlier schism. In a letter to Alexander and Arius, he expressed his natural longing for “tranquil days”; but he also exhibited his ignorance of the real bearings of the controversy, and his imperial self-confidence in pronouncing upon it. The strife, he said, had arisen from an unpractical question stirred by the one, and an inconsiderate opinion expressed by the other. Let them indulge no more in such intellectual exercises; or, at any rate, keep them from publicity. Seven times in the letter he insists, with a sort of passionate emphasis, that the points at issue are minute and trivial. On all vital points, he assures them that they agree; why should they rend the Christian brotherhood about speculative opinions on which few men think alike?
Thus, in the spirit of a man of the world, for whom doctrinal truth was a mere unreality, Constantine threw aside, as absolutely unimportant, the question whether Christ was very God or no. He sent the letter by the aged confessor Hosius, bishop of Cordova. On his arrival at Alexandria, about the beginning of 325, another Council met. Arius was again condemned; so were the Meletian schismatics; Colluthus submitted to the Church, and Ischyras, on whom he had laid hands, was pronounced a layman. Far from accepting the Emperor’s view of the controversy, the Council appears to have adopted the term Homoousion, in order to express the great truth that the Son was included within the very essence of the Father, without being merged in His personality : that He was God of God, begotten, not made, literally, absolutely, eternally divine.
Arius sent a remonstrance to Constantine; but the Emperor was now under a different influence, as it would appear, from that which had produced his recent letter. He replied to Arius, partly by a coarse invective, partly by a peremptory order to recognize the Son as of one essence with the Father.
But it was now clear that neither provincial councils nor imperial mandates were sufficient for the need. The idea of a General Council of all bishops, such as could not have been held during the Church’s season of adversity, recommended itself to Constantine. Such an assembly might also decide two other questions: 1. that of the Meletian schism in Egypt; 2. that of the time of Easter Syria and some other districts maintained the old Quartodeciman custom, which had formerly been prevalent in proconsular Asia; while the majority of Churches made the close of the Lenten fast depend, not upon the 14th day of the month Nisan, but upon the first day of the week.
COUNCIL OF NICAEA MEETS.
Constantine accordingly summoned the bishops of Christendom to meet at Nicaea, which was conveniently near his own residence at Nicomedia. The day of meeting was June 19, 325. The number of bishops present has been usually stated as 313. Sylvester of Rome was too old for such a journey; he was represented by two of his priests. Alexander was present, attended by his deacon Athanasius. Two other faithful Alexanders were there, from Thessalonica and Byzantium. There, too, appeared Eustathius of Antioch, Macarius of Jerusalem, Leontius of Cappadocian Caesarea, the consecrator of Gregory the "Illuminator" of Armenia; Aristaces, Gregory’s son and representative; James of Nisibis; Hosius from Spain, Cecilian from Carthage, Nicatius from Gaul, John from Persia. Theophilus “bishop of the Goths”; brave confessors, like Paul of Neocaesarea with his disabled hands, and Paphnutius from Thebais, and Potamon of Heraclea, who had each been deprived of an eye; Acesius, a bishop of the Novatianist sect, who was specially invited by Constantine in his desire of unity. Among the Arianizers were the bishops of Nicomedia and Caearea; and the deposed Arians, Secundus and Theonas, were permitted to attend the great assembly, which was able to review all previous judgments. A large concourse of clergy and laity, present as spectators, but not as members, although some were allowed to address the Council, contributed to the grandeur of the scene. There is a question as to the bishop who presided. If Hosius did so, there is no good evidence for saying that it was in the character of Sylvester’s legate; and it is probable, on the whole, that he was “chief of the Council” only inasmuch as he was employed to frame the Creed; and that the actual president was Eustathius of Antioch. Before the proceedings began, a significant incident happened. A pagan philosopher, who had harassed some of the bishops by his volubility, was encountered by a pious lay confessor with the simple statement of the Christian faith, and was then and there won over to accept it. Before the Emperor’s arrival, the Council met in the cathedral of Nicaea. Arius was summoned and examined. He boldly declared that he held the Son to be a creature who once did not exist, who was made out of nothing by God, who might have chosen to sin against Him. A thrill of horror went through the assembly: many bishops stopped their ears, and said that they had heard enough; others insisted on a thorough discussion. Among those who, as members of the Council or as taking part in the debates, exhibited their argumentative skill on the side of orthodoxy, Athanasius the deacon was pre-eminent.
TRICKERY OF EUSEBIANS.
On the 3rd of July the Council was transferred to the palace. Constantine appeared in gold and purple, but without the pomp of guards. Modest and graceful in address, he replied to the loyal speech of Eustathius with an expression of his earnest wish for the unanimity of the Council. He listened to all with attentive patience, disclaiming all thought of dictation to the prelates he was but the “fellow-servant of his dear friends”. Arius was heard a second time. The Eusebians, as they began to be called after the Nicomedian prelate, attempted to defend him, but were inconsistent in their statements when called on by the majority to explain themselves. The line taken by the orthodox was this — “Let us hold fast the deposit of sound doctrine; let us take the baptismal faith, received in our several Churches, as the true apostolic teaching, the true sense of Scripture, the true test of all new statements”. When it appeared by this process that the very Godhead of the Redeemer was the faith which had converted the world, the bishops, willing to express the sense of Scripture in Scriptural terms, should such be found sufficient for the present emergency, proposed to declare Him to be “of God”; whereupon the Eusebians professed to accept this, inasmuch as “all things were of God”. The orthodox went on: “He is the Power of God; the Image of the Father, and in Him always”. The Eusebians, whispering and beckoning to each other, agreed to this also in their own sense: “The term, Power of God, is applied to angels, to men, even to locusts; man is God’s image; in Him we have our being, and nothing shall part us from His love”. Again the orthodox insisted, “He is very God”. “Well”, said the equivocating Eusebians, “He has been made so”. The bishops then quoted such texts as “the Brightness of His glory, the express Image of His substance”; “In Thy Light shall we see Light”; “I and My Father are one”; and at length, finding their opponents ready to explain away all Scriptural terms, concentrated the sense of Scripture into the phrases, “from God’s essence”, and “of one es sence with the Father”. They saw, in short, that the Homoousion was indispensable. When Eusebius of Caesarea prerented a creed which did not contain it, the formula was set aside as defective; when a paper by Eusebius of Nicomedia was read, which spoke of the Homoousion as plainly untenable, the “blasphemous” document was torn in pieces. The term had, indeed, been given up by the Council of Antioch in the preceding century, because the heresiarch Paul of Samosata had interpreted it sophistically in a material sense; but, in truth, it involved no error and no absurdity, and had been used by great writers in the sense now given to it, as expressing neither more nor less than the essential Godhead of the Son, or, in other words, His very and true Sonship.
The Council, having resolved to adopt this term, commissioned Hosius and others to frame a creed, and the resuit was as follows :-
“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Only-begotten, that is, of the essence of the Father : God of God, and 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 in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down, and was incarnate, and was made Man; suffered, and rose the third day; ascended into the heavens; shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. But those who say, Once He was not; and, Before He was begotten, He was not; and, He came into existence out of nothing; or, who say that the Son of God is of another substance, or essence, or is created, or mutable, or changeable, are anathematized by the Catholic and Apostolic Church”.
Seventeen Arianizing bishops objected to sign the Creed. Eusebius of Caesarea was among them; but after some consideration he gave way, on grounds which cannot be called satisfactory as regards his personal faith. The phrases anathematized, he remarked, “were not in Scripture, and had caused confusion”; that was all, it appeared, that he had to say against them. Others also yielded under menace of civil penalties—for the Emperor was resolved to enforce unity; until at last only five were left, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Maris of Chalcedon, Theognis of Nicaea, Secundus, and Theonas. Maris then signed; Eusebius and Theognis followed; Secundus and Theonas stood firm, and were condemned with Arius, and with two of his friends, Pistus and Euzoius. Illyria was their place of exile.
The case of the Meletians was very gently handled. “In strictness”, as the bishops said, “Meletius deserved no favor”; but he was admitted to communion, and allowed to retain the title without the powers of a bishop. His clergy, after the canonical defects in their ordination were supplied, were to rank after the clergy of Alexander.
A strong feeling against Judaic tendencies was exhibited in the settlement of the Paschal question. All Catholics were to keep Easter on the Sunday after the full moon following the 21st of March. It was then that Constantine asked the Novatian bishop whether he would accept the Creed and this Paschal rule. “0 Emperor”, replied Acesius, “the Council has determined nothing new. The Paschal rule and the definition of faith agree with what I have learned by tradition from the apostles”. “Why, then, do you not join the Church?”. Acesius answered by narrating the origin of his sect in the Decian persecution. “I must hold to the rule which denies absolution to those who sin mortally after baptism. God may forgive them, but not through the priesthood”. Constantine replied, “Well, then, set up a ladder for yourself, and ascend to heaven alone”.
The Nicene Council passed twenty canons, which will be found in the Appendix. A synodal letters was addressed to the Egyptian and Libyan Churches, recounting what had been done, praising the venerable Alexander, and concluding thus :—“Pray for us all, that what we have thought good to determine may remain inviolate, through God Almighty, and through our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, to whom be glory for evermore. Amen”.
Ultimately this prayer was granted to the full : and it was the Council’s loyalty to inherited faith which secured for it a position of such unrivalled majesty. When its sessions were closed on the 25th of August, individual Catholics might still have much to suffer, but the cause of the Catholic faith was won.
From the Council of Nicaea to the Council of Sardica.
“Great Athanasius! beaten by wild breath
Of calumny, of exile, and of wrong,
Thou wert familiar grown with frowning death,
Looking him in the face all thy life long,
Till thou and he were friends, and thou wert strong."
IT is a beautiful tradition of the Armenian Church, that on the return of Aristaces, Gregory the Illuminator received the Nicene Creed with this doxology : “Yea, we glorify Him who was before all ages, adoring the Holy Trinity, and the one only Divinity of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, now and ever, through ages of ages. Amen”.
These words might well express the joy with which the great majority of Churches would welcome the august confession when announced to them by their chief pastors. It was to them, doubtless, the full utterance of that simple faith in Christ’s true Godhead, which had ever lain close to the heart of the Church — had filled her rude old hymns with majesty, had burst in broken words from the lips of her martyrs, had kindled her abhorrence of “a God-denying apostasy”, and prompted the heathen sarcasms against her worship of a crucified God. They were deeply conscious of the truth which has been admirably brought out by a living writer, that this Nicene faith alone is an entire belief, of which all the elements are in unison; in which is proportion and symmetry, grandeur and simplicity; which fully realizes whatever is true in human nature, and whatever we may conceive of as proper to the Divine nature. In several parts of Palestine, which had been under the influence of Arianizers, the feeling would be different; and in Gaul, where the Church knew nothing of heresy, the necessity of the Creed was not felt, and for years it was very little known.
For the present, the Catholics appeared secure of Constantine. What he cared for, indeed, was not truth, but peace; and as he had failed to establish peace by indifferentism, he was ready now to establish it by persecution: and he made it a capital crime to retain any writing of Arius, whom he denominated a second Porphyry. Sometime after the Council, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis were condemned and banished for communicating with heretics, and Constantine wrote a violent letter to the Nicomedians, denouncing Eusebius for civil as well as spiritual offences.
Alexander, on returning home, carried out the decree of the Council respecting Meletius, but required of him a catalogue of the bishops and clergy of his party. Meletius personally gave in a list, including himself with twenty-eight other bishops, and a small number of priests and deacons: and in this paper we find the title of “Archbishop”. But shortly after, when on his deathbed, the incorrigible schismatic named as his successor one of the bishops in his catalogue; and this John, who was surnamed Arcaph, became a second head of the schism which thus broke forth anew. The aged Alexander died within five months after the Council. It is said that in his last moments he called for Athanasius. The great deacon was absent. Another Athanasius answered, “Here am I”. The Archbishop, instead of addressing him, exclaimed again, “Athanasius!”, adding at last, “You think you have escaped—but you will not escape”. The words were taken for a prophecy.
HELENA AT JERUSALEM.
This year 326 is celebrated for the proceedings of Constantine’s pious mother Helena at Jerusalem. She was nearly eighty years old, and had been fifteen years a Christian, when she journeyed to the land which all Christian instincts have called holy. Guided by the local tradition to the place of Christ’s burial, she ordered the mound of earth which either Hadrian, or some other enemy of Christianity, had raised over the sepulchral cave, to be cleared away; demolishing the temple of Venus which stood on its summit. The obstructions being removed, the “monument of the resurrection” came to light. This is substantially all that Eusebius tells us. But S. Cyril of Jerusalem, writing in 347, implies, and in a letter to Constantius, if that be genuine, asserts, that the cross on which salvation was wrought was found at the same time with the sepulcher. S. Jerome, in 386, tells us that it was kissed by pilgrims : S. Chrysostom, about 394, says that the cross had been buried, and was discovered lying between two other crosses. S. Ambrose, in 395, says that Helena, finding three crosses, “adored not the wood, but the King that had hung upon it”. These two latter fathers tell us, that the holy cross was distinguished from the others by its title; later writers say, by its miraculous effects. The silence of Eusebius is a difficulty in the way of believing that any cross whatever was found; but if, in spite of it, the evidence for the appearance of three crosses is strong enough to command our assent, it appears that we must choose between a profane imposture on the part of the local Church, and a real discovery providentially ordained.
That S. Helena’s proceedings gave a great impulse to Christian belief and devotion at Jerusalem and in Palestine, cannot be reasonably doubted. The sepulchral cave was separated from the rock out of which it had been hewn : it was then cased with rich marbles, and adorned with columns, so as to assume the form of a small chapel. Constantine wrote to Macarius, expressing his delight at the wonderful discovery of the sepulcher, and urging him to provide, at the public cost, all that might be needful for its due decoration : and he began to erect the great Basilica of the Resurrection to the east of the sacred spot. Another church, called that of the Holy Cross, was raised in honor of the Crucifixion; and two others arose at Bethlehem and on the Mount of Olives, in honor of the Nativity and the Ascension. Under the great terebinth at Mamre, unchristian rites had been carried on; Constantine reproved the bishops for not denouncing this idolatry, and ordered the altar and the images to be superseded by a Christian church, for the worship of the Saviour who had appeared there with two angels. He was active in cleansing the chief scenes of heathenish impurity. Temples were razed to the ground, and their images of gold and silver melted down, by visitors armed with the imperial warrant : and while many of the pagans were thus led to embrace Christianity, others, Eusebius tells us, were at least convinced of the nothingness of idols. Churches rose by the Emperor’s munificence; at Rome the Lateran Basilica,—converted, as the law courts easily were, into a place of Christian worship,—became the Cathedral of Our Saviour, with an adjacent baptistery dedicated to S. John. On the Vatican, where Christian piety revered the grave of the first apostle, a temple of Apollo fell, and the church of S. Peter arose. Like the Lateran church, it was richly endowed with estates, both in Italy and in distant countries; and part of its Eastern property supplied the incense for its ritual. Other churches of Rome called Constantine their founder; one of these was dedicated to S. Paul, two to S. Laurence and S. Agues; and one, which had been the Sessorian Basilica, was designated from its possession of a fragment of the Cross.
CONSECRATION OF S. ATHANASIUS.
Some months after the death of S. Alexander, Athanasius was elected by a majority of the provincial bishops, in accordance with the desires of the people, who prayed aloud to Christ for his election, and persevered for days and nights in entreating the bishops to give them “a genuine bishop” in Athanasius, “the good, the pious, the Christian, the ascetic”, expressing by the last term his known habits of self-denial and devotion.
The new Archbishop was about thirty years of age : the smallness of his stature seems to have been compensated by the majestic beauty of his countenance. His consecration took place in the end of 326; and shortly afterwards we see him seated in council with his brethren, to bear tidings of great interest from the South. It was indeed a wonderful story of unexpected providences. The narrator was Frumentius, who had been Regent of Ethiopia or Abyssinia. He told how he and his brother, Tyrians by birth, had been shipwrecked in the Red Sea, when journeying to Ethiopia with their kinsman Meropius; how the natives, then at war with Rome, put to death all on board save the two boys, whom they gave as slaves to their king; how the latter had made Frumentius his secretary, and Edesius his cupbearer; how on his death they had been made the guardians of his sons, and had administered the kingdom; how, in particular, Frumentius himself had encouraged the Christian foreigners in Abyssinia to meet for worship in a house of prayer, and had converted some of the natives. Their regency coming to an end, they had faithfully rendered up their trust, and obtained from the queen a reluctant permission to leave the country. Edesius had gone home to Tyre, Frumentius had come to tell the Archbishop of Alexandria that there were Christians in Ethiopia who greatly needed a bishop. “And who”, asked Athanasius, “can be fitter than yourself for such a work?”. Forthwith he consecrated Frumentius as bishop of Axum; and the newly-formed community grew up into a national Church, which honored Frumentius as its father and apostle.
Three national conversions belong to the earlier portion of the fourth century, and each supplies an instance of God’s “choosing the weak things of the world”. In Armenia, AD 302, the instrument was Gregory, fourteen years a captive. In Ethiopia, it was a shipwrecked youth, raised to a position like that of Joseph : in the third case, which may here be mentioned, as occurring in the reign of Constantine, we are reminded of the maiden who waited on Naaman’s wife. In Georgia, then called Iberia, we find a captive Christian woman, called Nina, producing a considerable impression on the natives by her devotional earnestness. She seemed to pray without ceasing, and persevered in fast, and vigil, and thanksgiving, until they asked her why she followed such a rule. “This is the way of serving the Son of God!”. Presently a child, grievously sick, was brought to the foreigner, in the hope that she might know of some cure. “I know this only, that Christ healed the sick”; and with these words she laid the infant on her poor bed, and prayed for its recovery. The prayer was heard. The queen herself was similarly cured of an illness; the stranger, in reply to offers of royal bounty, said that the work had been none of hers. “It is the Son of God, the Creator of all things, who has done this; if you would reward me, believe in Him!”. The king,—so runs the story,—losing his way in a mist, called on the God of the foreign woman, and not in vain. His conversion carried with it his people’s; Christian clergy were obtained by an application to Constantine; but Nina was reverenced as the Illuminator of Georgia.
Early in Athanasius’ episcopate, he visited the Thebaid, which had been a stronghold of Meletians; and Pachomius, the superior of a great monastic society in the Isle of Tabenne, came forth to bid him welcome, but hid himself when he heard that Athanasius wished to ordain him presbyter.
RECALL OF ARIUS.
Towards the close of 328, the Arian troubles began anew. According to one account, the arch-heretic himself and his companion Euzoius were the first of the exiles to regain Constantine’s favor, by giving in an evasive declaration of their faith; and their recall was followed by that of Eusebius and Theognis, who presented to the principal bishops what Socrates calls a palinode, to the effect that at Nicaea they had signed the Creed without the anathemas, but that now they were ready to approve all that the Council had done. There are difficulties, however, connected with this account; and another view is that they were by some means able to dupe the Emperor, and that they, in conjunction with an Arian priest, who gained a hold over Constantine by means of his sister Constantia, effected in 330 the recall of Arius and Euzoius. There is no doubt, at any rate, as to the formula which Arius gave in. It marks an epoch in the history of Arianism. It avoids the outspoken audacity which horrified the Nicene Council, and deals in phrases which might succeed in lulling suspicion, although plainly defective in a Catholic point of view. The Son of God is called “God the Word, begotten of the Father before all ages”: and thus the Nicene faith was wronged by an inadequate statement, rather than by a positive denial. With equal astuteness, they contrived to combine a profession of respect for Catholic doctrine with an allusion to Constantine’s former language about the undesirableness of unpractical speculations. The Emperor, at this time, was mainly interested in an event which of itself deserves a place in Church history, the dedication of his New Rome, or Constantinople, which took place on May 11, 330. It w as to be a purely Christian city, dedicated to the God of Martyrs; and besides several other churches, three were devoted to the glory of Christ as the Wisdom, the Peace, the Strength of His people. Eusebius of Caesarea was desired to furnish fifty copies of Holy Scripture for public reading in the churches of New Rome. A cross of gold and gems was the chief ornament of the chief room of the palace, and the fountains in the forum were hallowed by the image of the Good Shepherd. It is mournful to think of the corruptions and wickednesses which almost immediately began to haunt the palace and city thus elaborately Christianized.
DEPOSITION OF EUSTATHIUS.
The Eusebian party—the chiefs of which were the Nicomedian Eusebius,—his namesake of Caesarea,—Acacius, the pupil of the latter,—George, whom Alexander had deposed from the priesthood, and who had originated the sophism about all things being from God,—Leontius, a smooth, cautious man who had studied in Lucian's school,—Eudoxius, afterwards notorious for his profanity,—and Valens, bishop of Mursa in Pannonia, who became equally conspicuous by shameless want of truth,—had one definite object before them, to undo the work of Nicaea. Their tactics, as now arranged, consisted of three points; 1. to maintain their hold over the Emperor; 2. to get rid of the leading Catholic bishops; 3. to propagate Arianism in forms less offensive to general Christian feeling than those which the Council had anathematized.
Their first victim was Eustathius. The patriarchal see of Antioch had suffered much in the third century by the scandal of an heretical occupant. It was now to pass through sufferings from the effect of which it never quite recovered. Eustathius was an eloquent and blameless prelate, who persevered in zealous defence of the truth, and would never receive the Arians into communion. He had particularly expressed his distrust of the orthodoxy of Eusebius of Caesarea and two other bishops. Eusebius retorted by the charge of Sabellianism, which Arians always brought against the Catholics, and which, as we have seen, S. Alexander had to repel. On this ground, and also on the evidence of a perjured woman, suborned to blacken his spotless character, a synod of Arians deposed Eustathius, and Constantine banished him, as “a pollution”, to Illyria, in 331. Paulinus of Tyre was transferred to Antioch; and on his death shortly afterwards, Eulalius was made bishop. He soon followed Paulinus. The vacant see was offered to Eusebius of Caesarea. He declined on canonical grounds to be translated; Constantine highly applauded his refusal, and thereupon, although a party in the city called for the restoration of Eustathius, the Arians placed Euphronius in the see.
Other faithful bishops were persecuted by the faction, as Eutropius of Hadrianople, who had warned all who visited him against the “impieties” of the Nicomedian Eusebius. The latter now wrote to Athanasius, urging him to admit Arius into communion. The answer was stern and explicit : “No communion with inventors of heresy who have been anathematized by an Ecumenical Council”. Eusebius then made Constantine write in the tone of a despot to a rebellious subject : “Now that you know my will, admit into the Church all who wish to enter : if you disobey, I will send some one to expel you”. Athanasius wrote to impress upon Constantine, that heresy which lifted itself up against Christ had no portion in the Church Catholic. He invited the famous hermit Antony to Alexandria, who by the sanctity of his presence and his fervent exhortations did much for the Catholic cause. He told the people that, as Christian men, they could not communicate with those who made the Lord of all a creature. Meantime Eusebius, who had already secured the aid of the Meletians, devised with them a series of charges in order to ruin Athanasius.
1. The first was, that he had forced the Egyptians to contribute linen vestments for the Church services. Two of his priests, Apis and Macarion, were then actually at the court, and disproved this charge before Constantine, who condemned the accusers, and sent for Athanasius.
2. The Archbishop, on arriving, found himself accused of having sent a purse of gold to the rebel Philumenus. Constantine went into this charge also, in a suburb of Nicomedia, and afterwards drove the slanderers from his presence.
CASE OF ISCHYRAS.
3. A more elaborate calumny followed. Ischyras, as we have seen, had been pronounced by the Council of Alexandria to be a mere layman. He had, however, persisted in officiating at a little hamlet called Sacontarurum, in the Mareotis. Athanasius had heard of this when performing a visitation of his diocese, and had sent a friend, named Macarius, prohibiting Ischyras from such a procedure. The man’s own relatives enforced this order, and he thereupon went over to the Meletians. A story was concocted, that while Ischyras was in church offering the oblations, Macarius came in, threw down the Holy Table, and broke the chalice, proceeding also to burn the church books. Constantine enquired into this case also, and the following facts were ascertained. 1. There was no church in the hamlet : Ischyras had been wont to officiate in a cottage belonging to an orphan boy named Ision. 2. He was not a real priest. 3. Macarius' visit was not on a Sunday; therefore, by the Alexandrian usage, there could have been no celebration. 4. There was no chalice at the place. 5. Ischyras was ill in bed on the day in question. 6. Ischyras had come to Athanasius after the dissemination of the story, and with tears protested that he had been compelled by violence to affirm it; this declaration he repeated in writing, and gave it to “the blessed Pope Athanasius” in the presence of thirteen clergy. “I take”, he wrote, “God as my witness, that no chalice was broken, and no table overthrown, —that nothing of that which has been stated did in fact occur”.
These enquiries, and their results, excited the Emperor's indignation against “cabals”, which he expressed in a letter to the Alexandrian Catholics ; affirming also in the strongest terms his belief that Athanasius, to whom he entrusted the letter, was a sound teacher and a man of God.
COUNCIL OF TYRE.
4. The next invention was yet worse. “Athanasius has murdered Arsenius, a Meletian bishop. He has cut off the dead man’s hand, and kept it for magical purposes. We can produce the hand itself”. A prince of the imperial family was ordered to enquire into this matter, and sent the Archbishop notice to prepare for a trial at Antioch. At first Athanasius treated the affair with scorn. But as Constantine was disturbed by it, a deacon was sent to enquire throughout Egypt whether Arsenius were dead or alive. The messenger fell in with four persons who confessed that he was concealed at a monastery in the Thebaid. Having given this information, they lost no time in warning Pinnes, the superior of the monastery, who instantly sent Arsenius down the Nile into Lower Egypt. The deacon, reaching the monastery, found that he was too late; but took Pinnes into custody, and had him examined by the military officer in command at Alexandria. Then the truth came out; and Pinnes wrote a letter—one of the most curious papers connected with the history—to John Arcaph, the head of the Meletians, who was then at Antioch. After narrating what had happened, he added: “I tell you this, my father, lest you should determine to accuse Athanasius, for I said that he was alive and had been concealed with us, and all this is become known in Egypt, and cannot any longer be kept secret”. In short, the conspiracy had broken down. But where was Arsenius? He had been warned to avoid Tyre. Yet, impelled, as Socrates thinks, by a special providence, he went to Tyre, where some friends of Athanasius, having heard that he was concealed in a house of one of the citizens, at length discovered and denounced him. The man would not confess his identity, until Paul, bishop of Tyre, made further denial useless; and then he wrote a humble letter to his “dearly beloved Pope”, protesting with many pious expressions that he would renounce all schism and render all due obedience to Athanasius. “I, Arsenius, pray that you may be strong in the Lord many years”. John Arcaph also professed his submission to the Church: and his conduct was approved by Constantine, who also wrote a letter to Athanasius, which he desired him publicly to read, and in which he announced that any further plots of the Meletians should be punished by civil and not by spiritual law.
After an ineffectual attempt on the part of the Eusebians to ruin Athanasius by a council at Caesarea, which he absolutely refused to attend, he was warned in the next year, 335, to attend a council at Tyre, with the threat that if he refused he should be carried thither by force. The occasion of this meeting was that a number of bishops were to attend the dedication of the church of the Resurrection at Jerusalem; Constantine desired them first to assemble at Tyre. Forty-nine Egyptian bishops attended their chief, and protested against several of the judges as avowedly hostile to him. One of the Egyptians, Potamon, who had lost an eye in the persecution, exclaimed aloud to Eusebius of Caesarea “Do you sit there as a judge of the innocent Athanasius? When I was maimed in our Lord's cause, how came you to escape without betraying it?”. Eusebius rose up in high wrath : “What must you be when at home in Egypt, if you can tyrannize over us here?” Paphnutius took hold of Maximus of Jerusalem, led him aside, and told him how the case really stood. Supported by the Count Dionysius, who presided over the assembly, the Arians were masters of the position; and one reckless charge followed fast upon another. “Athanasius procured his election by the bad faith of a few bishops. He has scourged and imprisoned those who would not communicate with him. He has thrown down an episcopal chair. He has deposed Callinicus, bishop of Pelusium, and subjected him to military custody and tortures. He has given the see of Pelusium to a deposed presbyter. He has caused a presbyter, Ischyrion, to be imprisoned on a false charge of throwing stones at the Emperor’s statues”. A woman was brought in to denounce him, and put to shame her employers by mistaking one of his priests for the man whom she came to accuse. Last of all, they produced “the hand of Arsenius” in a wooden box, and excited by the display of it a cry of horror. Athanasius calmly asked, “Did any of you know Arsenius?”. “We knew him well”. A person, muffled from head to foot, was led in : Athanasius uncovered his face, and the living Arsenius was at once recognized. But if he had not been murdered, had he been mutilated? Athanasius lifted up the long cloak first from one hand, then from the other. “Where was the third hand cut off? has God given any man more hands than two?”. Incredible as it may appear, the Eusebians were able to meet even this home-thrust by a cry in which the spectators joined, “Away with the sorcerer!”, and the authorities had to rescue Athanasius by hurrying him on board a ship. The faction resolved to revive the tale of the broken chalice, and appointed six bitter enemies of Athanasius to enquire in the Mareotis as to the facts of the case. He complained to the Count Dionysius, who exhorted the Council, in vain, to choose the commissioners fairly. Remonstrances were made both to him and to the Council, by the Egyptian bishops and by the venerable Bishop Alexander of Thessalonica. It was in vain. The commissioners left the priest Macarius, the person accused by Ischyras, a prisoner at Tyre, and took Ischyras with them, “a companion in lodging, board, and wine-cup”. Their proceedings were a prolonged outrage. Philagrius, the praefect of Egypt, an apostate to heathenism, was in attendance to intimidate the witnesses. In his presence, and in that of Jews and Pagans, an enquiry was carried on respecting the Eucharistic Sacrifice; an enquiry from which presbyters were excluded, while catechumens, who could not have been present at the celebration, gave evidence inconsistent with the original tale. “We were present when Macarius rushed in”, said some; others, in still more direct contradiction, testified that the man who was alleged to be standing at the altar as a celebrant was, in point of fact, lying sick in a small cell. The report based upon this evidence was of course altogether worthless. As such, it was denounced by the Catholic clergy in addresses to Philagrius, to the Council, and to the six “conspirators”, with a solemn appeal to the future judgment of God. Contemptuous of these protests, Valens and Ursacius, with their four associates, completed their task by letting loose the Pagan soldiers on the helpless Catholics of Alexandria, and then proceeded to Tyre with their report.
COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM.
Athanasius had not waited for their return, but, with a parting protest, set sail for Constantinople. The Council condemned him on the ground of the accusations; and Arsenius signed the sentence against his alleged murderer. The Meletians were recognized as Churchmen; and the wretched Ischyras, who had only seven adherents in Sacontarurum, was actually made a bishop with that hamlet for a see. The bishops then proceeded to Jerusalem, where the dedication of the great church took place on Saturday, Sept. 13, 335. Two hundred prelates attended. The Basilica was in the freshness of its splendour; its roof blazed with gold, its walls were rich with coloured marble. Through the nave with its double aisles the bishops passed into the apse, where twelve pillars, adorned with silver bowls, represented the apostles, and a gorgeous curtain hung around the altar a. Beyond, a cloistered court encompassed the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre. Such was the scene amid which the judgment of Nicaea was set aside, by the solemn recognition of Arius and his adherents as men who had suffered from factious jealousy, and whose creed of 330 had proved them orthodox.
FIRST EXILE OF ATHANASIUS.
Meantime, Athanasius had reached Constantinople. In the middle of the road, while Constantine was riding into the city, he was suddenly startled by encountering the Archbishop, who by sheer persistency obtained a hearing, and begged that his judges might be summoned to court. This request seemed reasonable, and Constantine wrote a peremptory letter, blaming the bishops of the Council of Tyre for their tumultuous violence, and commanding them instantly to justify their sentence before him. They received this letter at Jerusalem, and Eusebian craft was equal to the emergency. They dropped the recent charges, and resolved to take the Emperor on his weak side. While, then, the majority of the bishops fled in terror to their houses, the six most active foes of Athanasius—the two Eusebii, Theognis, Patrophilus, Valens, and Ursacius—went up to court, and accused Athanasius of threatening to prevent the sailing of the corn-ships from Alexandria to Constantinople. Athanasius protested that the thing was impossible for one like himself, a poor man in a private station: Eusebius of Nicomedia affirmed with an oath, that Athanasius was a rich man who could do anything; and Constantine, who in the hands of Eusebius was a child, turned a deaf ear to Athanasius and banished him to Treves, where the government took ample care for his maintenance, and Maximin the bishop received him with all honor, in February, 336.
The Eusebians then attacked a bishop advanced in years, who had sat in the Nicene Council, Marcellus of Ancyra. In discussion with the Arian “sophist”, Asterius, who had placed the Son, as a “Power of God”, in the same category with the locusts, Marcellus had given some occasion for the charge of Sabellianizing. He seemed to make the Son a Power temporarily put forth by God; and although it was afterwards said that the offensive language had been used only “in the way of argument”, there may have been an unsoundness in his views at this period, which after-years tended to develop. The Eusebians denounced him as a heretic, and also as having shown disrespect to the Emperor by refusing to attend the recent dedication at Jerusalem. He was deposed by a synod at Constantinople, and appealed for sympathy to the Roman Church, wherein Marcus succeeded Sylvester in January, 336. But while the Eusebians were thus far successful, Arius could make no way at Alexandria. He had been sent back thither after the condemnation of Athanasius, but Constantine found that it was expedient to recall a man whom the Alexandrians would not receive. Arius was accordingly summoned to attend the Emperor, who asked if be held the orthodox faith. He answered, with a solemn oath, that he did hold it; and gave in another formula couched in Scriptural terms, professing that he did not hold the opinions imputed to him by Alexander. “If you really do hold the faith”, said Constantine, “you do well to swear; but if otherwise, God will judge you for your oath”. The Eusebians now resolved to bring him publicly to Communion; and the Emperor gave them his full support.
DEATH OF ARIUS.
Alexander bishop of Constantinople was now more than ninety years old. Eusebius of Nicomedia menaced him with instant deposition if he refused to receive Arius. “I cannot receive the heresiarch”, was his reply. “We have brought him hither”, said Eusebius, “against your will, and tomorrow, against your will, he shall come to Communion”. Alexander heard this announcement on a Saturday. Attended by the Alexandrian priest Macarius, he betook himself to the altar of the Church of Peace, and fell on his face in an agony of prayer. “If Arius is brought to Communion tomorrow, let me Thy servant depart. But if Thou wilt spare Thy Church,—and I know Thou wilt, —then, lest heresy enter the church with him, take away Arius”.
It was late in the afternoon of Saturday. In the flush of his assured triumph over the Nicene Council, Arius walked through the city with his supporters, attracting the gaze of all the people. His high spirits were remarked, and doubtless appeared natural in one who was enjoying the discomfiture of his enemies. He seemed that day to have the world at his feet. Suddenly, as the throng approached the great porphyry pillar in the centre of the forum, he stopped short and withdrew from his friends. An internal disorder, accompanied by violent hemorrhage, carried him in a few moments to the judgment which he had invoked. The corpse was hastily buried; men thought with horror of the Field of Blood, and the next day’s Eucharist was undisturbed by heresy. The mode of his death involves no miracle; but if Arnold could ascribe the ruin of the French army in Russia to “the direct and manifest interposition of God”, it is no wonder that the Catholics saw in the event which “took away Arius” the terrible presence of an avenging visitation.
DEATH OF CONSTANTINE.
Alexander died in this same year 336, and Paul, whom he had recommended as apt to teach, though young in years, was elected in preference to his elderly rival Macedonius, but speedily banished to Pontus by Constantine, who continued to rely on the Eusebians, and withstood the Alexandrian petitions for the recall of Athanasius. In vain did Antony write letter after letter, warning the Emperor against Meletian falsehood. Constantine replied by commanding the clergy and the virgins to forbear their urgency in behalf of a turbulent man condemned by a synod. He could not believe,—so he wrote to Antony,—that so grave an assembly had been governed by personal feelings. Athanasius must assuredly be what they had pronounced him, the arrogant foe of unity and order. At the same time, Constantine was decidedly adverse to factious movements on the opposite side; and doubtless took credit for impartial justice, when he sent John Arcaph into exile, and disregarded all entreaty for his recall.
Constantine had deferred baptism,—by his own account, until he could receive it in the Jordan. Such delay had been already censured by the Council of Neocaesarea; and the Emperor’s motive was, apparently, a worldly unreadiness to commit himself altogether to Christian responsibilities, masked by a lofty estimate of the effects of baptism whenever administered. Feeling that his end was near, he received the imposition of bands which made him a catechumen, the regular instructions given during the catechumenate, and then baptism from the bands of the Bishop of Nicomedia. “Now”, said he, “I know I am really blessed! No one can know, as I do, the preciousness of what I have received”. He died in the white robes of a neophyte, aged sixty-four, on the Whitsunday of 337. His second son, Constantius, in a partition of the empire with his brothers Constantine and Constans, secured the dominion of the East.
RETURN OF ATHANASIUS.
Constantius was only twenty at his accession. His character was singularly repulsive. In the weakness which made him a tool of household favorites, in the despotic arrogance which took the place of moral dignity, in the suspiciousness which hardened his heart and defiled his palace with kindred blood, the worst features of his father’s character appear exaggerated, and unrelieved by any virtue except the avoidance of sensual sin. He fell under the influence of that priest who had swayed Constantine in favor of Arius; and Eusebius, his principal chamberlain, with whom, according to a pagan sarcasm, “he had a good deal of influence”, was readily converted to the laser creed. These circumstances fixed the religious policy of his reign, and prepared a series of bitter trials for the Church.
For the present, however, there was a breathing-time. The exiled bishops were recalled in 338: Constantine II, writing on June 17 from Treves, informed the Alexandrians that he was but fulfilling his father’s intentions in sending back their bishop. After two interviews with Constantius, in Moesia and in Cappadocia, he was welcomed at Alexandria with a burst of exulting joy. Even Arsenius begged to be restored to his communion. About the same time, Paul returned to Constantinople; but Eusebius of Nicomedia had set his heart on the see of the imperial city, and was translated thither after an Arian synod had condemned Paul. This year is also marked by the death of Eusebius the historian; Acacius, his disciple, became bishop of Caesarea.
The party again set to work against Athanasius. “How had he dared to resume his see without the sanction of a council?”. Another calumny was concocted, that he had sold the allowance of corn granted to the Alexandrian Church, and appropriated the proceeds to his own use : and Pistus, an excommunicated Arian, consecrated by the notorious Secundus, was set up as a rival bishop at Alexandria. Three clergy were sent to accuse Athanasius, on old and new charges, before Julius bishop of Rome, who had succeeded Marcus in February, 337. But a great Council of the Catholic prelates of Egypt put forth a solemn encyclic, testifying to the innocence of their chief, and denouncing the murderous animosity of his accusers. He, on his part, sent messengers to Rome, who exposed the character of Pistus. Julius had been asked to recognize Pistus; he now asked the Eusebian deputies what they had to say in reply to those of Athanasius. They could say nothing; one of them, indeed, decamped by night, in spite of illness, rather than face the Alexandrian presbyters; and Athanasius sent other delegates to establish his innocence before the emperors. Some sixty-three other bishops, he tells us, bore written testimony in his favor.
The Eusebians requested Julius to propose a council, and he did so, allowing Athanasius to select the place. But the Eusebians, unwilling to attend a council in the West, took occasion to hold one at the dedication of the newly-finished cathedral of Antioch, called from its splendor the Golden Church. Here, in the early part of 341, ninety-seven bishops attended, and after the solemnities of dedication, confirmed the decision of Tyre against Athanasius, by enacting, and giving retrospective force to, a canon which cut off from all hope of restoration, or even of a hearing, the bishop or priest who should officiate after a canonical deposition. They passed twenty-four other canons, and three creeds. The first creed is very short, beginning, “We who are bishops have not been followers of Arius, but have examined his doctrine”. It stops short of full truth, but asserts no falsehood. The second, ascribed to Lucian, and known especially as the Creed of the Dedication, gave very high titles to the Son, as the immutable and unvarying Image of the Father's Godhead, begotten before all times and ages. In fact, it all but called Him “Homoousion”. The third was read before the assembly by Theophronius, bishop of Tyana ; it was a vague, short statement, anathematizing Paul of Samosata, Sabellius, and Marcellus of Ancyra. The Eusebiaus hoped by these formulas to persuade the Western Church of their substantial orthodoxy.
GREGORY AT ALEXANDRIA
As Eusebius of Edessa, who afterwards became bishop of Emesa, declined to accept the Alexandrian bishopric, it was given by the Council to a Cappadocian called Gregory. In the Lent of this year he was installed by Philagrius. Hideous outrages by pagan soldiers attended his intrusion. The Holy Table was used as an altar of pagan sacrifice; the church candles were lighted before pagan idols; the stores of the church were ransacked; Catholics, male and female, were insulted and beaten on Good-Friday and Easter-day, to the delight of the unbelievers; the old confessor Potamon was so cruelly scourged that careful nursing could only for a time restore him; and Athanasius' aunt was denied a grave. The last extremity of sacrilege was reached by casting the Holy Eucharist on the ground. This league between Pagans and Arians is significant; the former saw that in the hands of the latter Christianity lost the main part of what they abhorred.
Athanasius, acting on the command to flee from persecution, withdrew to Rome, after writing an encyclic to all other bishops on the infamies of Gregory’s intrusion. Julius then a sent Elpidius and Philoxenus, two of his priests, to the Eusebians at Antioch, inviting them to a council for December, 341. Meantime Athanasius, having laid his case before the Roman Church, spent his time in frequenting its services, and took the opportunity of making the Western mind acquainted with Egyptian monasticism. The Eusebians, instead of coming to the Council, detained the Roman envoys. When they did not appear, Julius and fifty bishops met in the church of the presbyter Vito, recognized Athanasius as innocent, and confirmed towards him “their fellowship and loving hospitality”. In January, 342, the Eusebians, sent back the two envoys, the sorrowful bearers of a defiant letter, on which, at the autumnal synod of that year, Julius commented with just severity in a letter to the Eusebians He rebuked the arrogance of their tone, their subterfuges in regard to the proposed council, their detention of his envoys; dwelt on the gross unfairness of the Mareotic enquiry, the patience and nobleness of Athanasius, the orthodox statement made by Marcellus in presence of the Italian Council. He maintained that, as bishop of Rome, he had a right to be informed in case of suspicion attaching to the bishop of Alexandria e. He insisted that the churches should be relieved from outrages which provoked the mockery of the heathen, and would assuredly be visited in the day of account.
Among the bishops who had received the sympathy of the Westerns was Paul of Constantinople. In this year 342, the death of Eusebius was followed by a popular restoration of Paul. Constantius sent Hermogenes to expel him. In a tumult Hermogenes was slain, and Paul was sent in chains to a castle on the Tigris; but his rival Macedonius, being implicated in the tumult, was not put in possession of the see for which the Eusebians had consecrated him.
PERSECUTION IN PERSIA.
Sapor the Long-lived, king of Persia, had been addressed by Constantine the Great in favor of the Persian Christians, whose bishop, John, had been present at Nicaea. He was now at war with Constantius, and was soon persuaded by the Magi that his Christian subjects, who would not adore the sun, were Romans at heart. He began In 343 a terrific persecution. Symeon Barsaboe, bishop of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, was cast into prison. His friend Usthazad, an old eunuch, who bad apostatized through terror, saluted him as he was led away. The Bishop averted his face, and Usthazad, changing his white robes for black, bewailed himself as a wretch who had denied his God, and whom his friend had disowned. His steadfastness returned, and he was beheaded on Maundy Thursday. On Good-Friday a hundred persons died for Christ, Symeon being last of all. His successor, Sadoth, was also martyred. His sister Pherbutha, or Tarbula, with another Christian maiden, was denounced as having caused the Queen’s illness. They were sawn asunder, and the Queen, in order to her recovery, was made to pass between their mangled remains. Although after a time the martyrdom of his favorite servant Azad induced Sapor, in his grief, to confine the persecution to the clergy, we are assured that 16,000 names of sufferers were preserved in the records of the Persian Church, and that many others perished whose names could not be known.
THEOPHILUS THE INDIAN.
About this time Constantius sent an embassy to the Homerites in Arabia Felix, with a view of promoting Arian Christianity. The envoy was Theophilus, called the Indian, who had been sent as a hostage to the court of Constantine, and been ordained successively deacon and bishop. He induced the Arabian prince to build three churches; and after dedicating them, he passed over to his native island near the mouth of the Indus, and thence to parts of Hindostan, (where he taught the Christians to stand up when the Gospel was read,) and after visiting the church of Axum, returned to Constantinople.
The death of Constantine II in 340 had left the young Constans lord of all the West. He sided with the Catholics; but the Eusebians resolved, if possible, to win him over. They accordingly sent to him, a few months after the Dedication Council, what is called the fourth of its Creeds; which, like the others, was evasive and unsatisfactory. When he came to Milan in the end of 345, some bishops requested him to press his brother for a council; he did so, and then sent for Athanasius, who had been staying three years at Rome, and whom he received with great kindness, though they never met in a private interview. Just at this time, Eudoxius and two other Eusebians came to Milan with a long formula called, the Macrostich, which expressed the better kind of what has been termed Semi-Arianism, and blended together some Catholic and some Arian ideas. It was very emphatic against Marcellus, and his pupil Photinus of Sirmium, as holding that the Word was an energy which dwelt for a time in Christ, and that on its departure His office would come to an end. This creed was intended, like its predecessor, to calm the Western mistrust. But Westerns, though unversed in theological distinctions, were ready to ask, “Where is the Homoousion?”. So long as the Nicene Creed was not adopted, the most elaborate Eastern formulas profited nothing. Such was the decision of the first Council of Milan in 345.
COUNCIL OF SARDICA.
Constans determined on another Council, which might be of sufficient dignity to restore peace to the whole Church. He told Athanasius that he had written to Constantius, who agreed to the proposal.
The place selected was Sardica, a Moesian town on the confines of both empires, already memorable for the horrible death-scene of Galerius. About 170 bishops assembled, the Western being a small majority, in the year 347. The Easterns, about seventy-six in number, at first expected that the assembly would be like those with which they were most familiar, in which counts and soldiers were ready to overawe their opponents. Finding that, on the contrary, those opponents would confront and accuse them, they resolved, while on their journey, to take no real part in the proceedings, but simply to announce their arrival. Accordingly, on coming to Sardica they shut themselves up in the palace where they were lodged; and it was with difficulty that two of their body found their way into the church, and denounced their brethren’s schemes before the Council, which was already sitting under the presidency of Hosius.
The Eusebians were repeatedly invited to attend. They sent word that they would not come until their opponents were deprived of seats in the Council. “This is a General Council”, was the reply : “the whole case is to be laid before its judgment. Come and present your own statements; Athanasius and his friends are ready to meet you, and the Council is ready to hear both sides”. There were also present in the Council men who could show the wounds they had suffered from Eusebian violence; and one prelate exhibited the chains which they had made him wear. There were Alexandrians who had been driven into exile; and a letter from the Alexandrian Church drew forth tears. Deputies were present from various Churches, who could tell of forged letters, of menaces from the judgment-seat, of ruffians with swords and clubs enlisted in the cause of heresy. Not choosing to face these witnesses, or to meet Athanasius on equal terms, the Eusebians, including five Western bishops, withdrew from Sardica on the pretext that Constantius had sent them news of a victory over the Persians. On receiving this message, the Council rebuked their “indecent and suspicious flight”, in a letter which announced that unless they returned they would be held as guilty. Instead of returning, they established themselves as a Council at Philippopolis, on the eastern side of the border, re-affirmed the former sentences against Athanasius, and uttered new ones against the bishops of Rome, Cordova, Treves, and Sardica. They published an encyclic, denouncing Marcellus, Paul, and the “sacrilegious” chalice-breaker, the crafty plotter of Alexandria; and they sent it to “Donatus, bishop of Carthage”, as to the other prelates in their communion. Lastly, they adopted a creed a made up of the fourth Antiochene and the Macrostich. In all their acts they usurped the title of the “holy Council of Sardica”.
The true Council, meanwhile, proceeded to examine the cases before them. They found enough in the documents to account for the secession of the Eusebians. Having regard to a long list of outrages, and, above all, to the guilt of the Eusebians as promoters of “the accursed Arian heresy”, the orthodox Council of the West, acknowledging Athanasius and his brethren as innocent men and true bishops, pronounced the deposition and excommunication of eleven Eusebian bishops by name. “They who separate the Son, they who alienate the Word from the Father, ought themselves to be separated from the Catholic Church, and alien from the Christian name”. The solemn judgment was summed up in the words, “Let them therefore be anathema”.
A Council so loyal to the faith could promulgate no formulary in place of the Nicene Creed. The bishops passed twenty-one canons, the most celebrated of which have reference to the conspicuous trustworthiness of their absent Roman brother. Hosius proposed, as he did in regard to the canons generally, that a bishop whose cause had been lost in the synod of his province might signify his wish for a new trial. His judges should then, “in honor of S. Peter’s memory”, write to Julius, bishop of Rome. Thereupon the bishop of Rome should commit the new trial to the bishops of the neighboring province; and might also, if requested by the appellant, send presbyter of his own “to judge with the bishops”. It is evident that these rules make nothing for the claim of a papal supremacy, but rather bear witness against it. It may well be that their object was a temporary one,—to strengthen the cause of orthodoxy by strengthening the hands of Julius. But supposing that all his successors were included in the scope of the canons, the powers described were far too small for spiritual sovereignty, and they proceeded avowedly from the Council’s grant. Another canon, the tenth of the series, forbade the elevation of a layman to the Episcopate until he had been tried in the offices of reader, deacon, and presbyter.
The Council wrote letters to the Emperors, to Julius, to the Church in Alexandria and in Mareotis, to the bishops of Egypt and Lybia, and to all Catholic prelates. They assured the suffering Catholics of their brotherly sympathy, dwelt on the exposure of Eusebian and Meletian calumnies, exhorted all the Alexandrians to shun “the accursed communion” of Gregory, who had never been a real bishop, and declared Marcellus innocent of having maintained that Christ's person “began to exist from S. Mary”, or that His kingdom would ever have an end. Athanasius wrote personally to the faithful of Alexandria and of Mareotis.
The number of prelates who, either in the Council or afterwards, subscribed the decree in favor of Athanasius and against the Eusebian troublers of the Church, was 284. On this great occasion it might he truly said that the Western Churches, with many of the Eastern, stood firm on the Creed of Peter.
From the Council of Sardica to the Retreat of S. Athanasius.
"Let us hold for certain that there is one truth which Christ has bequeathed to the world, and one Church, against which the gates of hell shall never prevail; that while error is multiform and self-destructive, this truth is essentially one"
MILL, University Sermons.
THE secession of the Eusebians to Philippopolis was the signal for a new persecution of the Catholics in the Eastern empire. Philagrius was employed to behead at Hadrianople ten citizens who would not communicate with the seceders. This city had been determinedly orthodox. Its bishop, Eutropius, had been a confessor; Lucius, who succeeded him, had been put in bonds by the Eusebians, and was now again loaded with chains on the hands and neck, and sent to die in exile. Theodulus of Trajanople, who apparently left Sardica before the Council broke up, was put to death in his flight from Eusebian fury. Orders were sent to the authorities at Alexandria to behead Athanasius, or certain of his clergy, should they venture to return home. A reign of terror began; conveyed at the public expense, Arians passed to and fro, "seeking whom they might devour"; many fled at their approach into the deserts, while the dread of scourging, chains, or exile drove many to a hypocritical submission. The two bishops, Macarius and Asterius, who had withdrawn from the Eusebians at Sardica, were punished by exile in the wilds of Libya.
In the West, of course, the decrees of Sardica received the full sanction of Constans. In the latter part of 347 the second Council of Milan was held in order to carry them out. In this assembly Valens and Ursacius, finding it inconvenient to be under the ban of the West, presented a written condemnation of all who said that "once the Son was not, or that He was made out of what did not exist, or that He was not Son of God before all ages". The Council also condemned Photinus of Sirmium, who carried out boldly the views which the Sardican Council had thought Marcellus clear of holding. It was of the last importance to show that the orthodox had no tenderness for a Sabellian denial of Christ's personal pre-existence. Marcellus, in fact, became gradually more and more committed to heresy, and Catholics found him to be beyond defence.
It was either in this year or in the following that Cyril, the chief presbyter of Jerusalem, delivered his famous Catechetical Lectures in the churches of the Holy Cross and of the Resurrection, in order to prepare candidates for baptism. More than once in this course he alluded with great severity to Marcellus, as one who dared to make the Word a mere effluence, and Christ's dominion temporary.
It had been resolved to apply to Constantius in behalf of the exiled bishops. Fortified by a letter from Constans, the Sardican delegates, Vincent of Capua and Euphrates of Cologne, reached Antioch about Easter, 348. The Arian patriarchs of Antioch had been five, Paulinus, Eulalius, Euphronius, Placillus, and Stephen who now held the see. This man, who had presided at Philippopolis, undertook to ruin the character of the aged Euphrates by a flagitious conspiracy. Its detection ruined him with Constantius. He was deposed, and Leontius placed in the see. Some banished Alexandrian clergy were recalled; but Constantine would do no more, and Athanasius, invited by Constans to Aquileia, continued to dwell there under his protection, and in friendship with Fortunatias, the metropolitan of that important see.
Gratus, the Catholic bishop of Carthage, had been present at Sardica, and had supplicated Constans in behalf of the African Church. Constans thereupon sent two envoys, Paul and Macarius, to Africa, charged with gifts from the Emperor "for all Christians". The real purpose of their mission was to win over the Donatists by an exhibition of impartial beneficence, and to use all their influence in behalf of Catholic unity. Donatus, who, as we have seen, had been recognized by the Eusebians of Philippopolis, and who, though his sect knew little of it, had Arian views, was a fitting head for the most arrogant of schisms, and a formidable adversary to any scheme of reunion. His pride, both spiritual and official, was as intense as the homage of his adherents was servile. He bore himself as if he were sovereign of Carthage. He treated his fellow-bishops as his servants; would not allow them to send him the eulogise of bread, which prelates sent to each other in token of unity; was wont to communicate in private, and then come carelessly into church. He even disliked to be addressed as "bishop". His followers had an oath, "By the white head of Donatus", and used to sing to him, "Well done, good leader, noble leader!". Such was the man who, when Paul and Macarius explained their business to him, saying that they had brought the Emperor's bounty for the poor, broke forth in words altogether inconsistent with the early history of his party, "What has the Emperor to do with the Church?", adding other disloyal words about Constans. "We shall go", they replied, "throughout the provinces to distribute the Emperor's gifts". "I have written already to prevent the poor from receiving them". The wild fanaticism of the sect took fire. The rumour spread that force was to be employed for "the Union". It was even said that the old times of heathenish persecution, in which Donatism had been nurtured, were returning. "Paul and Macarius, those two beasts, will come and attend the Sacrifice; and when the Altar is prepared as usual, they will suddenly place an image upon it! Whoso tastes of the Sacrifice of the friends of Union is as one who eats things offered to idols". It was vain to say, "No force is thought of—no one has been persecuting—not even a rod has been seen". The insane panic produced an insane fury. Another Donatus, of Bagai, called out the Circumcellions, giving them the title of "Champions of God". Their hideous violence had raged, apparently, in the days of Constantine against the Catholics' possession of the churches, and had, shortly before the period which we have reached, attained its complete organization in the old quarrel of poverty against property. Then, under Maxido and Fasir, the "leaders of the saints", they had declared war against masters and creditors, and spread around such terror that even their own bishops invoked the aid of the Count Taurinus, whose soldiers put many of them to the sword. Now they rushed to oppose "the Union" with the same wild craving for excitement which sometimes found vent in gross sensuality: howling their war-cry of "Praises to God", brandishing the huge clubs which they called Israels, they obliged the two envoys, in self defence, to apply to Count Silvester for a military escort. Some of these soldiers, being attacked by the fanatics, stirred up their comrades' fury. The officers could not keep them in; a battle was fought, the fanatics were worsted, Donatus of Bagai was slain, with another bishop named Musculus. These men, and two others who are said to have died in what was called "the Macarian persecution", were revered as martyrs by the Donatists; others who were exiled for non-conformity, as was Donatus of Carthage himself, took the rank of good confessors. The Catholics afterwards used to say, "If Macarius in his zeal became cruel, we defend him not; but if you cry out against him, what shall we say of your Circumcellions?"
COUNCIL OF CARTHAGE.
His measures probably made few converts, but they produced much outward conformity, and a Council held at Carthage in 349 expressed by the mouth of Gratus the Church's thanks for "the end of the wicked schism". Fourteen canons were enacted. The bishops being asked whether persons who had been baptized in the faith of the Trinity should be baptized anew on joining the Church, answered unanimously, "God forbid!". True to the principles of Caecilian, the Council forbade those who had rushed on their own death to be called martyrs. Insolent and contumacious clergy were to be censured; but clerical trials were to be very solemnly conducted, three bishops being required to judge an accused deacon. The clergy were to have no women dwelling with them, nor to undertake any secular business.
The pertinacity with which Constans insisted on the recall of the exiles placed Constantius in a difficulty, from which, in the beginning of 349, the death of Gregory relieved him. He permitted Paul to return to Constantinople, and wrote three letters to Athanasius, to the effect that he had all along sympathized with his distress, had expected him to return of his own accord, and now desired his immediate attendance. One of these letters was sent by a priest of Alexandria, another by a deacon; and six counts were employed to write encouraging letters, while Constans was informed that the Church of Alexandria would be kept vacant for its true bishop. On receiving the third letter at Aquileia, Athanasius went to Rome, to bid farewell to his friend Pope Julius, who addressed to the Alexandrians a cordial letter. Their piety—so he wrote—had awaited, and their prayers had procured, this happy end of their affliction. Their bishop and his brother,—the glorious confessor who had despised death, and whose firmness in the cause of heavenly doctrine had given him a world-wide glory,—was coming home, pronounced innocent, not by Julius only, but by the whole Council. "Receive him, then, with all godly honour", ennobled the more by recent trials. "Your letters consoled him in exile, and now it delights me to imagine the universal joy which will hail his return, the multitudinous welcome, the glorious festivity. What a day will that be to you when my brother comes home,—what a day of perfect happiness, in which I too can join, since God has enabled me to enjoy his friendship! May God and His Son reward your noble confession with those better things to come which eye bath not seen nor ear heard". So parted the two patriarchs. Athanasius proceeded to Antioch, where Constantius received him graciously. But Athanasius did not lose the opportunity of remonstrating personally with a sovereign who had lent himself so grossly to false accusers. "Call my accusers, I beg of you; let them stand forth, and I will meet them". "No", said Constantius : "I take God to witness that I am absolutely resolved to listen to no more accusations; and the records of former charges shall be erased". He wrote to the prefect of Egypt, signifying that it was his pleasure to have all orders tending to the injury of the adherents of Athanasius obliterated from the order-books; and that Athanasius and his clergy were to enjoy all their former immunities. To the Egyptian bishops and clergy be wrote that "the most reverend Athanasius had not been deserted by the grace of God"; and added that to adhere to him would thenceforth be a guarantee of absolute security. He exhorted the Alexandrian laity to welcome their bishop, to make him their "pleader before God", and to be perfectly united and tranquil under his care.
Athanasius found the Catholics of Antioch divided. Some worshipped apart from Leontins, and were called "Eustathians"; others joined in the established worship, the rather that Leontius, who was a master of Arian craft, refrained from all display of his own opinions, insomuch that when some chanted "and to the Son", in the doxology, and others adopted the form of "by the Son", the cautious patriarch slurred over the critical words, and all that could be heard from him was "unto ages of ages". His policy was not to proclaim himself an Arian, but to Arianize the clergy, and thereby to work upon the Church. The two men who most stedfastly opposed him were not clergy. Flavian and Diodore, laymen who followed the monastic mode of life, gave themselves up to the work of strengthening their brethren against the insidious heresy, and called to their aid a mighty instrument. By night, around the tombs of the martyrs, the stillness was broken by the psalmody of a double choir; and the antiphonal chant became the symbol and support of Catholicity. Athanasius joined the "Eustathians", and contracted thereby a relation which had important results. When Constantius asked him to allow the Alexandrian Arians a single church, he asked in turn that a church might be given to the Eustathians, but this the Emperor's advisers would not allow.
On his, way to Jerusalem Athanasius was received at the Syrian Laodicea by Apollinaris, a young reader in that Church, highly educated, and previously, as it appears, inclined towards a kind of eclecticism, yet whose cordial kindness won the affection of his guest. At Jerusalem a council was held, which was a happy contrast to that of 335. Then Arius had been treated as a much misrepresented theologian. Now all but two or three bishops embraced the communion of Athanasius, excused their former proceedings as involuntary, and congratulated the Egyptian Church on recovering its pastor. Maximus of Jerusalem had long before this repented of his share in Eusehian injustice, and was the first to sign the recognition of Athanasius, who at length could rejoice in the orthodoxy of Palestine.
Then came the holy welcome, the "glorious festivity", which Julius had anticipated for the Alexandrian Church. It was a day to make men forget the past, and to strengthen them for the future. Nor was it a mere holiday of unpractical enthusiasm. The faithful "encouraged one another in virtue". Many embraced a life of devotion, or remained single for Christ's sake; "every house seemed like a church", and the intense thankfulness found expression in works of charity. Letters came flowing in from bishops who declared that their hearts had been with him while they were acting under Arian pressure. Some of these were doubtless insincere adhesions, as was the "palinode" of Valens and Ursacius. Unsought for as it was on the part of Athanasius, it was too plainly a following up of their sudden tergiversation in 347. Of their own freewill, as Hosius afterwards testified, they went to Rome, asked pardon for their offences before Julius and his clergy, and, after receiving it, gave in a paper confessing the falsehood of their charges against Athanasius, expressing their desire to be at peace, and anathematizing Arianism "both now and for ever, as we set forth in our declaration at Milan". This letter, duly signed by both, was preserved in the Roman Church's archives, and a copy sent to Athanasius. They also signed letters of peace which three of his adherents presented to them; and they wrote from Aquileia with an easy confidence which real penitents would not have shown, certifying their "lord and brother, well-beloved", that they were at peace with him, and in Catholic unity. Meantime a Council of bishops at Alexandria affirmed the decrees of the Sardican Council, and four hundred bishops throughout Christendom were now in communion with Athanasius.
DEATH OF CONSTATS.
Such was the triumph of 319. But on Feb. 15, 350, Athanasius lost his chief secular support. Constans, "whose kindnesses he could never forget", was murdered in his flight from the rebel Magnentius. Constantius, after this tragedy, sent a gracious letter to assure Athanasius of his continued protection, concluding with, "May Providence preserve you, beloved Father, many years". On receiving this from two great officers, Athanasius proclaimed in church, "Let us pray for the good estate of the most religious Emperor Constantius Augustus", and the congregation at once responded, "0 Christ, send Thy help to Constantius". The Emperor was obliged to withdraw from his campaign against Persia in order to meet the Western rebels, Magnentius and Vetranio, the latter of whom he won over. On his retiring, Sapor besieged, not for the first time, the Mesopotamian city of Nisibis, on the Roman frontier. James, its bishop, who had sat in the Nicene Council, encouraged the people to build up the wall which Sapor had destroyed by diverting the river, and is said also to have obtained by prayer a plague of insects which drove Sapor to retreat.
It was probably in this year that Maximus of Jerusalem died, and Cyril became archbishop. The story that Maximus was deposed and Cyril substituted by Acacius is inconsistent with probabilities, and with the testimony borne by the second General Council to the canonical regularity of his consecration. The other tale, which Jerome credited, that Cyril obtained the see from Acacius on condition of disclaiming the ordination which Maximus had bestowed, is utterly incredible, and probably sprang from the prejudices of a rigid party which mistrusted Cyril. His Lectures, though the "Homoousion" does not occur in them, clearly prove the soundness of his faith. Acacius did indeed take part in his election, but though excommunicated at Sardica, he was still de facto bishop.
Another event of this year was the final expulsion of Paul from Constantinople. Philip the praetorian praefect was appointed to decoy him to the Baths of Zeuxippus, and so convey him on board ship. He was then sent to die at Cucusus in Armenia. According to the report of Philagrius the apostate prmfect of Egypt, Paul was shut up for six days without food, and ultimately strangled. Macedonius now took full possession of the see, probably by means of that massacre of above 3,000 persons which is sometimes dated at an earlier period.
Considerable excitement was produced at Antioch by the ordination of Aetius as deacon. This man, the most odious of the extreme Arians, had gone through many changes of life, as a vinedresser's slave, a goldsmith, a medical man, a guest and pupil of Arian bishops, and a professor of that disputatious logic in which the heresy was at first embodied. He was the first to affirm openly that the Son was essentially unlike the Father. Leontius intended this diaconate to be a means of propagating Arianism. But Flavian and Diodore threatened formally to renounce his communion; and he thought it best to depose Aetius.
The Paschal season of 351 was marked at Jerusalem by a luminous appearance in the form of a cross, which appeared in the sky over the city. It produced a great impression; and Cyril is said to have sent an account of it to Constantius. The latter was this year at Sirmium, where a council met to depose Photinus, who had been hitherto able to retain his church, in spite of former censures. The Council published a creed, which had no less than twenty-seven anathemas; some being meant to answer objections brought against Arian or Semi-Arian views,—some containing an explicit condemnation of the Photinian view, that "the Son from Mary is only a man", and that He only pre-existed in God's foreknowledge. Hilary, who had now been some two years bishop of Poitiers, and was the great support of Catholicity in Gaul, considered this creed as orthodox; and the first Sirmian council is certainly the most respectable of the Eusebian assemblies, although it cannot claim a higher place. The victory of Constantius' arms over Magnentius at Mursa, Sept. 8, 351, directly increased the influence of Valens, who persuaded the Emperor that he had received the news from an angel; and thereupon he and Ursacius proceed to recant their recantation. "It was made through fear of Constans". It was, in fact, their own unforced proceeding, the evident result of a calculation of expediency.
S. Julius died April 12, 352, and his successor Liberius was soon required to attend to new charges against Athanasius, which also came before the Emperor, whom the Eusehians warned against the results of his leniency. We may take these accusations in order, with the replies.
1. "Athanasius influenced Constans against Constantius". He had never any wish to play such a part; and if he had wished it, he had had no opportunity.
2. "He has corresponded with Magnentius". This monstrous slander struck him mute with indignation. What should induce him to court the murderer of his friend? Could any letters from him to Magnentius be produced? Any which purported to be his, he could shew to be forgeries.
3. "He has used a church at Alexandria built by the Emperor, while yet undedicated; and this without permission". This was the great Caesarean church. Athanasius had allowed the people to keep Easter in it, because their assembling in smaller churches had caused much inconvenience in Lent, and the people had entreated to have the use of the Caesarean, in default of which, they said, they would meet in the open country.
4. "Why has he not obeyed an imperial summons to Italy?". Simply because the Emperor's letter professed to grant him leave to do so : which leave be had never asked —for the letter asking it was an Arian forgery.
Tiberius and his council were satisfied with the statements of Egyptian bishops on behalf of Athanasius, and wrote to the Orientals accordingly. But the latter had Constantius in their bands; and in the autumn of 353, the death of Magnentius by his own hand left Constantius master of the West, and at leisure to crush the man whom he had been forced to recall.
At this momeutous crisis, what was the doctrinal aspect of the schools extraneous to Nicene orthodoxy?
The Eusebians,—worldly, subtle, and unprincipled,—had for some time kept up a kind of credit by using phrases less plain-spoken than the original Arian language. The formulas connected with the Dedication Council had tended to make many persons forget the true and simple issue, Was the Son of God created, or was He not? August names were freely given to Him, and blinded many to the fact that a creature, however glorious, was, by comparison with the Creator, simply on a level with the humblest of His works. In a word, these formulas had "created a belief" in minds more honest than the Eusebian leaders. Men were really holding and teaching that the Son was "Like in essence, Homoiousion, to the Father"—born of His essence, before times and ages, not a creature like other creatures, —but still not essentially one with God. This was Semi-Arianism, held by many religious scholars, like Basil of Ancyra, mainly through the mistaken notion that the Homoousion implied Sabellianism. "The men were better than their creed". Some of them were gradually coming to see its untenableness. And the Eusebians, perplexed by the phenomenon which they had produced, and finding that on the West the Semi-Arian formulas had made no real impression, were disposed to adopt a more manageable principle, which Eusebius of Caesarea had indicated, and his successor Acacius was ready to expound. Its simplicity might be more successful with the downright Westerns than the subtlety of the Homoiousion. For it threw aside all such terms as "essence", and professed to be content with the theological language of Scripture, and to know nothing beyond the "likeness" of the Son to the Father. "We have seen trouble enough arise from phrases of man's invention. Let us confess the Son to be altogether Homoion and we shall establish Christian peace". Many, doubtless, weary of the strife of tongues and the succession of formulas, listened eagerly to this teaching. Was it not sufficient to say what Scripture said? Was it not the only way to peace, and the path pointed out by religious humility? They who so reasoned saw not that when the terms of Scripture are the matter in debate, no unity can come from declining to say whether they mean one thing or another; that the true sense of Scripture is Scripture in truth, and that a vague reply to "What think ye of Christ?" is a disloyalty fatal to hearty worship and holy living.
Such was Homaean Arianism, taken up by the Eusebians when they cast off the Homoiousion, and found it necessary to provide some form of the doctrine less offensive than the Anomoion represented by Aetius. In that formula there was a simplicity of a certain kind; odious as it was to pious minds, it was a positive and consistent view, and its maintainers scorned all moderate Arianism as a mean thing void of courage or candour. Now, although the Eusebians had no real and religious aversion to this extreme Arianism, yet they saw that its language was imprudently audacious; that if there were no alternative between Anomoion and Homoousion, the hope of an Arian Christendom was lost. Just now the Anomaean Aetius, as being the favourite of Gallus, the Emperor's cousin, was associated with the odium of his misgovernment at Antioch.
COUNCIL OF ARLES.
A new attempt to Arianize the West was now resolved upon. When Liberius sent Vincent of Capua and other deputies to Constantius, asking for a Council to be held at Aquileia, Constantius caused it to meet at Arles, where the bishop, Saturninus, was an Arian. The first thing insisted on by the Arians at the Council was, that the bishops should renounce the communion of Athanasius. The aged Vincent, who had represented Sylvester at Nicaea, unhappily conceded this point, in the vain hope that Valens and his friends would, on their side, condemn heresy. He appears to have thought it necessary to sacrifice one man, in order to secure the Creed. But Paulinus of Treves saw that in that one man the whole cause of the faith was represented. To abandon Athanasius was, in fact, to abandon Nicaea. He therefore withstood threats and persuasions, and bravely endured a painful exile.
Liberius wrote to Hositis,—"I had hoped much from Vincent. Yet he has not only gained nothing, but has himself been led into that dissimulation". There was then at Rome the chief Sardinian bishop, Lucifer of Caliaris, a man of extreme sturdiness and vehemence, who at his own request was sent with a priest and a deacon, Pancratius and Hilary, to ask the Emperor for another council which should proceed on the basis of the Nicene faith. Liberius recommended them to the good offices of one whom he knew to be "kindled with the Spirit of God", Eusebius bishop of Vercelli, remarkable for having persuaded his clergy to adopt the monastic life.
COUNCIL OF MILAN.
Early in 355 the new Council met at Milan, where Dionysius the metropolitan, and his people, were earnestly Catholic. About three hundred Western bishops were present; of Easterns, only a small number. A letter which spoke of Athanasius, not as heretical, but as sacrilegious, was sent to Eusebius to urge his attendance. He replied that be would come and do his duty. On reaching Milan he was excluded for ten days from the sittings in the cathedral. When he was admitted, the Arianizers desired him to sign a condemnation of Athanasius. With a diplomatic subtlety which marred his nobleness, Eusebius held out the Nicene Creed, saying, "First let us make sure of the faith. Some persons here are not sound. Sign this, and I will sign what you please". Dionysius extended his hand for the paper, but Valens snatched it forcibly away. "That has nothing to do with the present business". A great agitation followed; the people, who could hear in the nave what was passing in the sanctuary, began to murmur; and Valens, Ursacius, and their friends procured an adjournment to the palace, where Lucifer has already been temporarily detained.
There a new scene opened. The court influence was brought to bear on the bishops. Constantius had written,—as he pretended, in consequence of a dream,—a letter full of Arianism, which his agents attempted to pass off. While the bishops were in the presence-chamber, and Constantius, as was usual, behind a curtain which hung across the room, they were asked to adopt this paper. "The Emperor's heart is set on the peace of Christendom, and God has attested his doctrine by his success". Lucifer broke forth : "The letter is Arian—there is no true faith beside the Nicene—and all the Emperor's army would not prevent me from abhorring what is blasphemous". "Insolent men!" said Constantius; "is it their duty to school an emperor?". But in a short time he took up a different point; the rather because his letter had been read in church, and indignantly rejected. He caused Valens and Ursacius to repeat the charges against Athanasius. Lucifer and Eusebius exclaimed against them as self-convicted liars : Constantius started up, saying, "It is I who am accusing Athanasius!". "You cannot," said they, "be a legitimate accuser; you do not know the facts, and the accused is not here. This is no case in which an emperor's word can suffice". The great majority, including Fortunatian of Aquileia, had no such spirit. The presence and tones of an Arian despot capable of any ferocity, and commanding their obedience in his own palace, fairly broke them down. They yielded, not only to sign the decree against Athanasius, but formally to profess communion with the Arians. Dionysius, in a moment of weakness, had yielded on the first point in order to secure from opponents a corresponding concession, which should leave the faith undisturbed. It is said that he repented of having yielded at all, and that Eusebius "very ingeniously" contrived to get his signature effaced. There is no doubt that Eusebius and Lucifer were stedfast; and when Constantius answered their appeal to canons by taying, "Let my will serve you for a canon, as it serves the Syrian bishops", they lifted up their hands, protested against his bringing "the Roman sovereignty into Church affairs", and bade him think of God and the day of judgment. They were instantly condemned to exile; Dionysius, who now cast in his lot with them, shared their sentence; as did Pancratius and Hilary, the latter of whom, when cruelly beaten, found support in thinking of the scourging of Christ. A few others, apparently, stood aloof from the unhappy weakness which betrayed this Council—called by Hilary of Poitiers "a synagogue of malignants"—into formally undoing the work of Sardica.
Dionysius was banished into Cappadocia, from which country a man named Auxentius, ordained priest by Gregory at Alexandria, was sent for to fill the see of Milan. Maximus of Naples, though weak from illness, stood firm, and died in exile. A pious bishop, Rufinianus, was compelled by a young Arian prelate, Epictetus of Centumcellae, to run before his chariot, until he died by bursting a blood-vessel. Lucifer was kept in a dark dungeon at Germanicia; Eusebius, at Scythopolis, the see of an old Arian, Patrophilus, was repeatedly dragged with brutal violence down a flight of stairs. Far and near, officers of the palace and of the tribunals went about threatening and denouncing all kinds of penalties to those who would not renounce Athanasius. Arian clergy sharpened the zeal of the lay persecutors. To avoid scourging, chains, false charges, exile, many gave way, and some whom Constantius personally dealt with were pent up in their houses until they repeated the words, "Athanasius is out of our communion."
It is difficult to realize the misery of that time. Liberius, who sympathized heartily with the confessors, was now to take his turn. At first it was attempted to lure him over; Eusebius the chamberlain was sent to him with gifts. "Comply with the Emperor, and accept thes.". Liberius replied that it could not be. He could not contravene the decrees of Rome and Sardica. If the Emperor really desired peace, let him allow a free Council to meet, not in his presence; to begin by securing the faith, and then take up the Athanasian question, without being swayed by the liars Valens and Ursacius. "Forgetting that he stood in a bishop's presence", Eusebius insulted Liberius with menaces, and then presented the Emperor's gifts at S. Peter's: whereupon the Pope rebuked the keeper of the church for not casting out the unholy offering. Eusebius returned to exasperate Constantius. The Emperor determined to get rid of the man who had demanded an ecclesiastical council for the hearing of charges, and had declared war against Arianism. Rome was agitated by threats and promises employed to detach men from their bishop : the very gates and harbour were guarded against Catholics who might visit him; at length he was summoned to Milan, and personally beset by Constantine, Eusebius, and Epictetus. Renounce Athanasius he would not. He insisted on justice and the Nicene Creed, representing in his own person Roman liberty and Catholic belief. He bade Constantine forbear fighting against Christ; he knew, he said, that he should be exiled, and when he was offered three days to bethink himself, answered confidently, —"Three days, or three months, will not change me; I have taken my leave of Rome!". He was banished to Beroea in Thrace, having spurned presents of money not only from Constantine, but from Eusebius, whom he scornfully bade to "go and become a Christian, before he presumed to bring alms as to a convict". Three "spies", as Athanasius calls them, "unworthy of the name of bishops", held an election at Rome, and consecrated Felix in the palace; the churches being barred against them by the laity.
The next step was to persecute the venerable Hosius. He was more than a hundred years old, and had been more than sixty years a bishop, besides his dignity as a confessor, and as eminent, to say the least, in the Nicene Council. At first he was sent for, and urged to renounce Athanasius and recognise the Arians. He replied by a severe rebuke, and returned to Spain, whither letters of flattery and of menace followed him, to which he made a noble reply, preserved by Athanasius. After a solemn reference to his own age and standing in the Church, he dwelt on the breaking down of the case against Athanasius, both at Sardica and elsewhere. Then he reminded the Emperor that he was a man, who must face death and judgment. "Intrude not into Church affairs, nor command us concerning them, but learn about them from us. Into your hands God gave the sovereignty; to us He entrusted the Church . . . . This I write in my desire for your salvation. On the subject of your letter, I have made up my mind. I will not join the Arians : on the contrary, I anathematize their heresy. I will not sign the condemnation of Athanasius, whom we and the Roman Church, and the whole Synod, pronounced innocent". Constantius replied by summoning him to Sirmium.
The persecution drew from Hilary an earnest appeal to Constantius, which may have tended to produce the law published by the latter on Sept. 23, 355, that bishops should be tried by other bishops, not by the civil courts. On Nov. 6 the Emperor appointed his cousin Julian, the brother of Gallus, to command in Gaul with the authority of Caesar.
DEATH OF S. ANTONY.
For twenty-six months Athanasius had been left unmolested. At last, two secretaries of the Emperor, followed by Syrianus, duke of Egypt, came to Alexandria. "Now", said the Arians, "be will be obliged to leave the city". But Athanasius and his people referred Syrianus to Constantius' promises of protection : and he swore that until the Emperor's will were known he would take no step. The day before this (Jan. 17, 356) Antony had died, aged 105, calmly bequeathing "a garment and a sheepskin to the Bishop Athanasius", and entreating that his body might be buried in the monastic solitudes, and not taken into Egypt, "lest they store it up in their houses. Finally, my children, farewell: Antony is going away, and will be with you no more". He died as he had lived, with a sweet bright face, the outward expression of that joyful faith which had been his strength in temptation, and had prompted his own rule of monastic life : "Having begun, persevere manfully; the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory; if we spend eighty or a hundred years in pious discipline, we shall not reign for a like number of years only, but for ages of ages!". It was two years since he had told his brethren, with tears and groans, that he had seen a vision of mules kicking at "the Table of the Lord's house," and had heard a voice saying, 'My Altar shall become an abomination'."
On Thursday night, the 8th of February, Athanasius was presiding over a vigil-service at S. Theonas' church, in preparation for a Communion on the morrow. Syrianus suddenly beset the church at the head of more than five thousand armed men. Hilarius the notary, and Gorgonius, commander of the police, attended him. The Archbishop, seated on his throne within the sanctuary, calmly bade the deacon in attendance to read Psalm 136, and the people to take up the burden of each verse, "For His mercy endureth for ever", and then all to leave the church as best they could.
The Psalm, it appears, bad been finished when the doors were burst open; with a loud shout, a deadly discharge of arrows, and "swords flashing in the light of the lamps", the soldiers rushed in, killing some of the people and of the devout virgins, and trampling down others, as they pressed on to secure their main object by seizing Athanasius. He was urged, meanwhile, to escape, but answered, "Not until all the rest are safe" : then standing up, he called for prayer, and begged all present to leave the church. "Better my risk than your harm". He was, in fact, all but seized, and some of his friends were just in time to bear him away through the soldiers who thronged the entrance of the chancel;—safe, indeed, from their murderous grasp, but fainting from the agitation and the pressure. The invaders ran riot in the church, penetrating "where not even all Christians were allowed to enter"; the corpses of the slain were removed, but several bows, arrows, and swords remained to bear witness to the tragedy. The Catholics afterwards prevented them from being taken away, and drew up two formal protests : the second, which is extant, and is dated Feb. 12, was made after Syrianus had denied that any fatal event had accompanied the irruption, (even although the corpses were publicly exposed,) and had caused those who remonstrated to be beaten with clubs. The document, after narrating the outrage, declares that the Catholics are ready for martyrdom, but are resolved to ascertain whether a persecution which has made several martyrs is sanctioned by the Emperor who had solemnly guaranteed to them the episcopate of Athanasius.
OUTRAGES AT ALEXANDRIA..
Constantius made prompt reply. He had willed what had been done. Count Heraclius, the bearer of his letter, proclaimed that all the churches were to be given up to the Arians. The Pagans were threatened that if they opposed the mandate, they should lose their idols. The Catholics asked each other, "Has then Constantius turned heretic?". On a Wednesday, after service in the Caesarean church, when only a few women were left who had just risen from prayer, Heraclius with a band of young Pagans and some Arians fell on them with stones and clubs, tearing off their veils, insulting them with brutal language, beating, kicking, stoning the helpless sufferers. They seized the curtains which enclosed the sanctuary, with the seats of the clergy, the episcopal throne, "and the Table, which was of wood"; some of these they burned outside the church they were only prevented by rules of heathen ritual from sacrificing a heifer in the church, and actually did sing hymns to their idols, rejoicing that "Constantius had turned Greek". Fanstinus, the Receiver-general, was the ready instrument of the Arians, who roamed about the city, ransacking houses, terrifying peaceful inhabitants by their very presence, and searching even the tombs to discover the hiding-place of Athanasius.
Meanwhile, he whom they sought, and who had hidden himself in the wilderness "until the indignation should be overpast", sent a letter to his children to comfort them with the thought that if the Arians held the churches, they held that Apostolic faith against which nothing should prevail. They had need of such comfort; for the persecutors were venting their malignity on the virgins of the Church, whom they exposed to the fury of Arian women; they caused Eutychius a sub-deacon to be scourged almost to death, and sent him to the worst of all the mines, which, however, be never reached, dying on his way of the wounds which had been allowed no tending. Four citizens of distinction were scourged for remonstrating, and the Arians compelled Syrianus to scourge them a second time. "We are beaten" said they, "for the truth's sake, for not communicating with heretics : beat us now as thou wilt,—God will judge thee for it". Men were persecuted for relieving the poor, for whose wants it became necessary to provide elsewhere than at the churches, the ordinary place of almsgiving. The very heathen cried shame on Arian cruelty. Monasteries were destroyed, and the inmates narrowly escaped from the fire. Clergy were banished, beaten, robbed of their stores of bread; a priest named Secundus was kicked to death, gasping out as he expired, "Let no one bring my cause before the judges—the Lord is my avenger". And now, as it would seem, a council of Arians at Antioch put forth a creed to be signed by the bishops of Egypt, and sent George, a Cappadocian, to occupy the throne of Alexandria. Hereupon Athanasius wrote his "letter to the Egyptian and Lybian bishops", warning them against this new sample of Arian versatility, which professed to be a "Scriptural" confession. He had some thoughts of going at once to court, and began to draw up an "Apology" which he might then address to Constantius, and in which he meant to enter at length into the more recent charges brought against him; the tone of the paper shows that he wished to preserve as long as he could the feelings of a loyal subject, but the events of this year changed them into indignant abhorrence.
INTRUSION OF GEORGE.
As Gregory had arrived in the Lent of 341, so George reached Alexandria in the Lent of 356. The Catholics regarded him with scorn as well as horror. He had cheated, they said, as a pork-contractor; he had the reputation of being a Pagan at heart; and Athanasius declares that he was "a great proficient in plundering and killing, but wholly uninformed as to the Christian faith.". The man had, however, some intellectual tastes, for he collected a valuable library. As was usual with Arian intruders, he came surrounded by a military force; an imperial letter recommended him to the Alexandrians as "the most venerable George", and contrasted him with "the low-born impostor" who had become a self-condemned fugitive, and whose flatterers might "perhaps" find mercy if they forsook at last "the villain's" cause. George was attended by Aetius as his deacon, and by Eunomius, afterwards the chief of the Anomaeans. His presence fanned the fire of persecution : "after Easter-week virgins were imprisoned," men thrust by night out of their homes, widows and orphans plundered. Of the bishops who refused to recognise the usurper, sixteen were banished, more than thirty were obliged to flee for their lives : on the whole, nearly ninety were in various ways under persecution. Many of these prelates were bowed down with age and illness; one died on his enforced journey; some were set to work in the quarries. A few were terrified into apostasy; we hear of a bishop, Theodorus of Oxyrinchus, who consented to be re-ordained by George. The vacant sees were filled up by simony and other corrupt means : the new bishops were "men who prepared the way for Antichrist". The Meletians, who took a purely secular view of the Church, easily lent themselves to the dominant party; Apollonius, one of their bishops, joined Theodarus in persecuting the faithful.
EXILE OF S. HILARY.
During this Paschal time of 356, the Gallican Church was brought under the yoke of Arianism. Hilary of Poitiers had addressed a remonstrance a to Constantius after the Council of Milan, and had refused to communicate with Saturninus, Valens, and Ursacius. Julian was now ruling in Gaul. Before he went into Germany, which he did in June 356, a council was held at Beziers; Hilary was not allowed to read a statement against Arianism ; the "false apostles" carried matters their own way, and none stood by him but Rhodanius of Toulouse. Both, by the influence of Saturninus, were banished to Phrygia, and it was when going into exile that Hilary first heard the Nicene Creed : his brethren in Gaul and Britain had held, he says, the faith in its integrity without needing written formulas. But he found that heresy had created such a need; the greater portion of the ten Asiatic provinces was "really ignorant of God", i. e. overrun by pure Arianism. The church of Toulouse was, meantime, the scene of outrages such as had elsewhere marked an Arian triumph. Clergy were beaten with clubs and pieces of lead, and profane hands were laid on the Holy Sacrament.
We must return to Alexandria. It was the Sunday after Pentecost when the faithful assembled for prayer in a cemetery outside the city. George, indignant at their avoidance of his communion, stirred up against them the Duke Sebastian, a hard-hearted Manichean, who fell upon them with more than three thousand soldiers, and endeavored to force them into conformity. Virgins were held close to a fire, and wounded in the face. Some of them, with forty laymen, were scourged with thorny palm-twigs. The torturers gnashed their teeth as the victims called on Christ. Some died in a few days, and a fragment of a letter from Athanasius speaks of the Arians as sitting round the tombs to prevent their burial.
One misery after another had been reported to Athanasius; the persecution in the West, the persecution of his own flock by George, and now, at length, his own proscription. Constantius had ordered a strict search to be made for him, even to the southern limits of the empire; and the princes of Axum were bidden to send Frumentius, to be examined by George as to his appointment and his conduct. Then Athanasius gave up the idea of going to the Emperor. One shelter was still left him, among the monastic cells, especially those which lay to the west of Alexandria,—in Scete, near the Libyan frontier, and on the mountain of Nitria, somewhat to the north of it. Antony was gone, and Pachomius of the Thebaid, and Ammon of Nitria; but Macarius the elder, who has left Homilies, and Macarius of Alexandria were alive, and Pambo in the "wilderness of cells", who "scarcely in nineteen years" learned to practise the first verse of the 39th Psalm, and Theodore, who now presided in Tabenne, remarkable for his sweetness and sympathy; and Stephen, a friend of Antony, who while his limb was being cut off, continued his occupation of weaving palm-leaves into a basket, and reminded his brethren that "what God works must come to a good end". We may think that the picture which Athanasius has given of Egyptian monasticism is more or less ideal; that many recluses, in all likelihood, fled from the world through mistaking their vocation; that the eremitic life was manifoldly perilous, and the caenobitic was marred by much that was unhealthy. But neither can we doubt, looking merely at the practical result of such lives on their generation, that Antony's holiness was a blessing to Egypt, and that communities which set themselves, in the face of a corrupt society, to "care for the things of the Lord" and to perpetuate in some sort the devotion of confessors, bore a witness which was not thrown away.
It was, then, to these quiet sanctuaries, which were to the eye of Athanasius as the "goodly tabernacles of Israel", that he now directed his "retreat", which he justified by the precept and example of Christ, and of the Saints of Scripture. The five or six years which followed it are comparatively a veiled period in his history. We know that it had its days of calm, when he could compose defences, epistles, and the great Orations against Arians, and could join the monks in their Communions on Sunday and Saturday, or the twelve psalms of their nocturn office, as well as in the brief prayers "darted up" many times a-day; when they could gather round him as their "father" and arbitrator, and drink in his words as oracles, and marvel at his union of contemplative with active sanctity. We know that there were times when the soldiers employed to hunt him down were so fierce in pursuit that he had to fly for his life from one monastery to another, or lurk in stifling recesses, where a single attendant could with difficulty visit him, where he had the pain of being severed from his friends, and the worse pain of knowing that they had suffered for giving him shelter. But we know that be, if any man beside the great Apostle, knew how to be abased as well as bow to abound; that in calm or in storm he was caring for his Church, guarding the simple against Arian craft, watching the progress of the controversy and the trials of foreign confessors, thinking tenderly of other men's weakness, keeping through all a patriarch's heart, and undethroned in the hearts of his people.
From the Retreat of S. Athanasius to the Accession of Julian.
S0 violent a prelate as Macedonius of Constantinople was not likely to refrain from persecuting in 356. Supported to some extent by an edict, he raged against Catholics and Novatians alike, for both parties held the Nicene Creed. Agelius, the Novatian bishop, fled; banishments, confiscations, branding with hot iron, horrible tortures, forcible administration of Baptism and of the Holy Eucharist, became the familiar weapons of an aggressive heresy. Eleusius, bishop of Cyzicus, and Marathonius of Nicomedia, seconded Macedonius. Martyrius, a deacon, and Marcian, a reader, were put to death as being implicated in the tumult whereby Hermogenes had been slain. Churches were pulled down, and the Novatians, hearing that one of their own was menaced, anticipated the agents of destruction, and carried away the materials to another site, where the church was promptly rebuilt; and when an armed force was sent against the Novatians of Paphlagonia, it was repelled by a multitude armed with sickles and hatchets. In Constantinople, Macedonius resolved to remove the coffin of Constantine from the church of the Apostles, which was in a dangerous state. This excited the wrath of a large body of the people, while others supported Macedonius; a desperate conflict ensued, and the precincts of the church ran with blood. Constantius was naturally incensed against the bishop, as the cause of so much violence and scandal.
On the 28th of April, 357, Constantius visited Rome, and found the general feeling strong against Felix. Some ladies of rank, at the suggestion of their husbands, petitioned him to recal Liberius. He consented (probably on the understanding that Liberius should satisfy the prelates of the court party) to restore him as joint-bishop with Felix but when his edict was read in the circus, it produced a cry of scornful indignation, "One God, one Christ, one Bishop!"
Towards the middle of this year a conference of some Arian bishops was held at Sirmium. Potamius of Lisbon—said to have sold his orthodoxy for an estate—produced a grossly heretical creeds, which exhibited the real affinity of the adherents of Acacius to that extreme Arianism which they often found it prudent to disown. It condemned Homoousion and Homoiousion, because they were not Scriptural terms, and because the subject was out of man's reach; and while it called the Son God, and spoke of a perfect Trinity, it asserted as indubitable the superior glory of the Father. In other words, the Godhead was not one, nor the glory equal, nor the majesty co-eternal. This is what Hilary calls the "blasphemy" of Sirmium. It had one most miserable success. Hosius had been kept a year in durance, had been repeatedly and savagely beaten, had been placed on the rack, had been made to suffer in his family affections, until at last, after enduring what would fix the brand of infamy on Constantius, if he had committed no other outrage, the old man consented to subscribe this creed. But whereas Vincent of Capua had given up Athanasius and clung to the faith, Hosius in surrendering the faith utterly refused to condemn Athanasius. After thus showing that "the grey-haired saint may fail at last", Hosius was permitted to return to Spain. But he never knew peace of mind; and with his last breath, two years later, he retracted his enforced concession, and anathematized the heresy. The "second creed of Sirmium" was sent to Gaul, but expressly condemned by Gallican bishops, and in particular by Phoebadius of Agen.
Liberius had spoken well in 355, but he over-estimated his own strength. After two years of banishment his intense longing for Rome threw him into a deep melancholy. His deacon Urbicus was taken away from him, a privation which he felt bitterly. Demophilus, the bishop of Beroea, where he was detained, and Fortunatian of Aquileia, who himself had yielded at Milan, urged him not to sacrifice himself for a single man, so often condemned by synods; and thus he was led to renounce Athanasius, and to acquiesce in some uncatholic formula. He wrote to the Orientals, "I do not defend Athanasius,—I have been convinced that he was justly condemned"; and added that he put Athanasius out of his communion, and accepted the catholic faith of the Orientals, put forth by many bishops at Sirmium. "This I have received; this I follow; this I hold". Hilary, who transcribes this letter, inserts some wrathful comments of his own : "This is the perfidious Arian faith. (This is my remark, not the apostate's.) I say anathema to thee, Liberius, and thy fellows : again, and a third time, anathema to thee, thou prevaricator Liberius!". There is a question as to what creed Liberius did sign; the second creed of Sirmium, signed by Hosius, could hardly be called the creed of the Orientals; on the other hand, the first Sirmian could hardly be thought so abominable by Hilary. According to Sozomen, (who, however, places the event somewhat later,) it was a digest from the old Antiochene creed against Paul of Samosata, the Dedication Creed, and the first Sirmian. In this case, Liberius accepted Semi-Arianism; in any case, he abandoned the Nicene Creed. He wrote an abject letter to Valens and his associates, asking their good offices with the Court for his immediate restoration; and to Vincent, whose fall he had once deplored, he sent an intimation that he had given up "that contest about the name of Athanasius", begging that the Campanian bishops might be informed, and that supplication might be made to the Emperor for his deliverance from his "great affliction". The letter concludes, "If you have wished me to die in exile, God will judge between me and you". Thus, in the latter part of 357, the Roman see lost its purity of faith.
S. BASIL IN PONTUS.
This year, so memorable in Western history, was marked by the formation of a monastic system in Pontus under the superintendence of Basil. He had been, together with his friend Gregory, son of Gregory bishop of Nazianzum, a fellow-student of Julian at Athens in 355. He had afterwards visited the monks of Egypt, and those who in Palestine had embraced the monastic life under the guidance of the celebrated Hilarion. In Asia Minor Basil found that Eustathius, bishop of Sebaste, had disciples living by ascetic rules, and after attaching himself to them for a season, retired with some companions to a beautiful spot in the mountain-country of Pontus. "Quiet", said he, "is the first step to sanctification", and here he settled his community, forming by degrees a rule for coenobitic labours and devotions, which became a pattern for all subsequent monasticism in the East. They met for prayer, not only, according to the ancient Christian usage, in the night, before dawn, and at dawn, and in the evening, but at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, and at the beginning of night. We cannot doubt that they used at Evensong that noble hymn which was already old in their time, and which must have had a special significance in an age when Christ's true Godhead was called in question :—
"Light of gladness, Beam divine
From the glory's inmost shrine,
Where in Heaven's immortal rest
Reigns Thy Father everblest ;—
"Jesus Christ, our hymn receive;
Sunset brings the lights of eve;
Day is past, and night begun;
Praise we Father, Spirit, Son.
"Night and day for Thee is meet
Holy voices' anthem sweet,
Ringing through the world abroad,—
Hail, life-giving Son of God!"
At the end of 357 or the beginning of 358 an important change took place at Jerusalem. For two years Cyril had been at strife with Acacius. He maintained for Jerusalem, as the mother-church, possessing an "Apostolic throne", and marked out for honour by the Nicene Council, an independence of Caesarea which Acacius would not grant; and he was also obnoxious to Acacius on theological grounds, as holding the orthodox doctrine in fact, if not in the fulness of Nicene terminology. Acacius now summoned a small council of bishops of his own party, which Cyril declined to attend. This was regarded as contumacy; and he was gravely accused of having committed an offence in selling some of the church ornaments to provide food for the famine-stricken poor. He was condemned and expelled from Jerusalem. He appealed, with more formality, as it appears, than had been usual in such cases, to "a higher court"; proceeded to Antioch, where he found that Leontius was dead, and no one had been appointed his successor; and ultimately found a welcome at Tarsus, where Silvanus the bishop, one of the best of the Semi-Arians, received him in disregard of remonstrances from Acacius. This circumstance brought Cyril for the next few years into connection with the Semi-Arian party; and he illustrates the fact that it contained men of whom Athanasius could say, in his noble readiness to discern substantial unity under verbal difference, "We do not treat as enemies those who accept everything else that was defined at Nicaea, and scruple only about the Homoousion : for we do not attack them as raging Arians, nor as men who fight against the Fathers, but we discuss the matter with them as brothers with brothers who mean what we mean, and differ only abort the word."
COUNCIL OF ANCYRA.
The vacant throne of Antioch was filled by Eudoxius, the intriguing and thoroughly irreligious bishop of Germanicia. He gained this promotion by fraud, and the aid of court eunuchs; he openly patronized Aetius, whose views he had imbibed; he circulated an exaggerated account of Liberius' concessions, and held a synod which condemned the Homoiousion, exhibiting herein a readiness on the part of Acacius to fraternize with Anomoeans as against Semi-Arians. Forthwith George of Laodicea sent a letter to Basil of Ancyra and Macedonius, to the effect that unless Aetius could be expelled, all was lost at Antioch. The letter found Basil, with others of his party, dedicating a church at Ancyra, on the 12th of April, 358. They had already heard, through Hilary, of the stedfastness of the Gallican and British Churches as against the Sirmian "blasphemy", and they now held a Council which adopted twelve anathemas in opposition to it, and asserted that the Son was like unto the Father not merely in power, but, "which is the chief point of our faith", in essence also. This Semi-Arian manifesto treated the Homoousion as implying Sabellianism, but insisted on the Homoiousion as indispensable to the real Son-ship, and condemned the Homoion as effacing the distinction between "Son" and "creature". It referred to the Dedication Council, to that of Philippopolis under the name of the "Council of Sardica", and to the first Council of Sirmium. Three bishops, Basil, Eustathius, and Eleusius, with a priest, Leontius, were sent to the Emperor, who had just given to a messenger from Antioch a letter in favour of Aetius. Convinced by the deputies from Ancyra, who cancelled the anathema against the Homoousion, Constantius withdrew his letter, and wrote another which denounced Eudoxius and Aetius. The latter, with Eunomius, recently ordained a deacon, was banished into Phrygia, Eudoxius retired to Armenia, and others of the party' were sufferers by this Semi-Arian triumph. An Ecumenical Council was resolved upon; at first Nicaea was fixed on as the place, but its associations were not agreeable, and Nicomedia was thought of instead. But on the 24th of August—about three weeks after Liberius had entered Rome, and Felix had been driven out of it—an earthquake laid the city in ruins, and killed two bishops in its church. Consultations were then held as to the best place : and just then some change of mind induced Constantius to receive the leading Acacians into a share of his counsels. They devised the mischievous plan of breaking the single Council into two, in the hope of being able thereby to "divide and govern". Eusebius the Chamberlain advocated the change; "the bishops of the East and West might go respectively to an Eastern and to a Western Council; their journeys would be shorter, and the public expense would be so much less". Coustantius agreed, and Ancyra and Ariminum were named as the two places.
HILLARY'S "DE SYNODIS"
While things were in this state, Hilary complied with the Gallicans' desire by giving them an account of the "Easterns' faith". The multifarious creeds which had issued from Asia perplexed the simple-minded Gallicans. Hilary, in writing this treatise, aimed at bringing about an understanding between the Gallicans and the Semi-Arians. It was highly important at this crisis to keep the Westerns from taking such a line as would exasperate the Semi-Arians of the East, when they seemed to be tending towards orthodoxy. It was equally important to assist that tendency by direct endeavours to dispel their prejudice against the Nicene formula. Hilary undertook this double task, by putting the best sense which he could upon the Eastern formulas, and by exhorting the Semi-Arians to accept the Homoousion in its true sense, apart from all perversions, as the complement to their own Homoiousion, and as the only formula which could do justice to the belief in a true Son, begotten of the Father's very essence. "Such was my own previous belief, in which the Homoousion greatly confirmed me . . . Bear with me, brethren, if I say, you are not Arians; why rank yourselves with Arians by denying the Homoousion?"
The treatise De Synodis was written at the end of 358. Ancyra was not thought a suitable place, and there was again an uncertainty, which led Basil to see the Emperor at Sirmium in May 359. There he met Valens, George of Alexandria, and Mark of Arethusa, Germinius of Sirmium, and another bishop. They agreed that the Eastern Council should be at Seleucia in Isauria. But they also agreed, after a long discussion, which lasted till night, — the night of Whitsun-eve,—to adopt a formula of doctrine drawn up in Latin by Mark of Arethusa, who had carried the fourth Eusebian creed to Constans in 342. He himself was a Semi-Arian; but this third Sirmian creed, otherwise called the Dated Creed, because its heading recited the consuls of the year and the day of the month,—the eleventh of the calends of June, or May 22,—was, in fact, Acacian. It abandoned the word 'essence' as perplexing and unscriptural, and confessed the Son to be "in all things like to the Father, according to the Scriptures". It gratified the Semi-Arians by its lofty language as to the Divine Sonship ("Begotten before all ages, before all origin, before all conceivable time, before all comprehensible essence,—the only one from the only Father, God from God"); but Basil evidently felt that he was inconsistent in accepting it at all, and added a note to his own subscription to the effect that he understood "in all things" to mean, "in subsistence, existence, and being." The ultra-Arian Valens, when copying it out, was dishonest enough to omit "in all things", but Constantius compelled him to insert the words, and he was then despatched with it to Ariminum.
COUNCIL OF ARIMINUM.
There the Western Council met, consisting of more than 400 bishops, including some from Britain. About eighty were Arians, for the most part of the advanced school. Liberius was not present, nor did he send any legates. Taurus, a praetorian praefect, was charged to prevent the bishops from dispersing until they were agreed as to the faith. Constantius' letter forbade this Council to make any decree respecting the Easterns. They were to settle the question of doctrine, and send ten deputies to the court.
When the discussion began, Valens and Ursacius, supported by Auxentius and others, attempted to cut it short. "Our business is simple; we are not assembled to enter on these subtleties, which will only breed discord, but to establish unity on the basis of a simple creed. Here is such a creed, expressed in clear and Scriptural language; the Emperor approves it—let the Couucil adopt it". They read the Dated Creed, whereupon many answered, "We did not come here because we wanted a creed. We have the Nicene Creed, and want no other. If you are of the same mind with us, say anathema to Arianism; or, if you will not, let us read the various formularies which have been issued, and measure them by the Nicene. The matter is indeed simple; we are not learning our faith, but have only to hold fast the faith of our fathers."
Valens and his adherents of course refused to adopt the Nicene standard. The Council proceeded to depose them as heretics of long standing who attempted to annul the only true Creed. "Let these enemies be condemned, that the Catholic faith may abide in peace". A "definition" was framed, adhering to the Nicene Creed, and declaring that "substance, name and thing" must be firmly retained, as established by many Scriptures. They pronounced eleven anathemas against the Arian, Sabellian, Photinian, and other heresies : and in a letter to Constantius they narrated what they had done, and explained their principle of loyalty to Nicaea. They begged him to allow no innovation, no injury to the ancient faith, observing that Arian novelties were a stumbling-block to the heathen, as well as a distress to the faithful. Aud they entreated permission to return to their respective churches. "Many of the bishops are worn out with age and poverty; suffer us in quietness to offer up our prayers for your good estate and for your empire, and that God may reward you with deep and lasting peace."
The Catholic deputies to Constantius were ten in number, young men, deficient in knowledge and judgment; the Arians were "wary and practised veterans", who found it easy to poison the Emperor's mind. Indignant at the rejection of a creed framed in his own presence, he treated the Council's deputies with coldness, and after a long delay informed them that until the Persian campaign was over he could not give his mind to their business; they must therefore await his return at Hadrianople. This resolution he announced to the Councid, and received in reply an assurance that the bishops would adhere to their decision, and an entreaty that they might be sent home before the winter.
So ended the first scene of the proceedings at Ariminum. The Easterns met at Seleucia on Sept. 27. The number of bishops was about 160; of these the great majority, 105, were Semi-Arians, headed by George of Laodicea, Eleusius, and Sophronius. Of the rest, some were shifty Homoeaus led by Acacius; a few were thorough-going Anomoeans; another small party, consisting of the Egyptians, George the usurper of course excluded, were loyal to the Nicene faith. Hilary, summoned as a bishop dwelling in Asia, was admitted to a seat in the Council, after declaring that his Church held that faith; and he has left us some particulars of the proceedings.
COUNCIL OF SELEUCIA.
Leonas, an officer of the household, was charged to attend throughout all the discussions; and after some dispute as to whether doctrine, or cases of complaint against individual bishops, e. g. Cyril and Eustathius, should be first considered, the precedence was given to doctrine. The majority were in favour of the Nicene Creed, omitting the Homoousion as obscure and liable to suspicion; or, at any rate, of the Dedication Creed of 341. The Acacians were for the Dated Creed; and their bolder Anomoean companions, as Eudoxius, uttered hideous profanities, which raised a great excitement. At last the Acacians withdrew, and the Dedication Creed was read in their absence. Next day the majority, within closed doors, adopted the Dedication Creed. The Acacians protested against this step; and when Basil and Macedonius arrived, they further protested that until those whom they had accused or condemned were excluded, they could not enter the Council. Their demand was granted, in order to leave them no excuse; and on the third day the Council again assembled.
Leonas then said, "I have a paper here, given me by Acacius; I will read it to the Council". It turned out to be a Homoean creed, avowedly of the same type as the Dated Creed; it rejected both Homoousion and Homoiousion, "as foreign to the Scriptures", but it formally anathematized the Anomoion, indicating thereby that Acacius was ready to throw over his more audacious friends. Hilary told an Acacian "who came to tempt him" that he could not understand the position thus taken up. He was answered that Christ might be called like to the Father as being the Son of His will, not the Son of His Godhead, a distinction which came strangely from the party whose watchword had been simplicity of doctrine. Sophronius, a Semi-Arian, said, after the reading of the new formula, "We shall never understand the truth, if to be constantly putting forth our private opinions be called an exposition of the faith."
On the fourth day Eleusius took high ground in behalf of the Dedication Creed as the true faith of the Fathers; Acacius urged that many creeds had been made since the Nicene. At length, after Acacius had been asked how the Son could be "altogether like", yet not "like in essence", and the disputes appeared endless, Leonas dissolved the Council. Next day he would not attend; nor would the Acacians, although summoned to appear at the enquiry into Cyril's case. The majority pronounced them contumacious. Acacius, Eudoxius, George, and six other bishops were deposed; nine other persons were excommunicated; and deputies were sent to Constantius, who were outstripped by the Acacians. Thus ended the Council of Seleucia.
CONFERENCE AT NICE.
Before any persons from Seleucia reached the Emperor, a conference had been held at Nice in Thrace, on Oct. 10, between the Catholic and Arian delegates from Ariminum. Constantius overawed the former. Restitutus, bishop of Carthage, their spokesman, was made to admit that Valens and Ursacius had never been heretics, and that the proceedings at Ariminum were null and void. They also signed a new edition of the Dated Creed, worse in two respects : 1. it omitted "in all things"; 2. it proscribed the word Substance (hypostasis) as well as Essence. And with this formula, which the Acacians hoped—incredible as it seems —to pass off as a "Nicene" creed, the delegates returned to Ariminum. Constantius wrote to the Council, proscribing the words Essence and Homoousion, and commanded Taurus to detain the bishops until the number of those who would not sign the formula should be reduced to fifteen, who were then to be sent into exile.
They also wrote to the Emperor, expressing their joy at his prohibition of "that unscriptural name, unworthy of God, which the others were wont to apply to God and His Son". They begged that he would not detain them along with the rest, seeing that they had "subscribed the sound doctrine, and worshipped none but God the Father through Jesus Christ". The majority of the Council at first held aloof from Restitutus and his fellows, although the latter protested that they had acted under constraint. But after a time the bishops' patience gave way. They shrank from a winter on the shore of the Hadriatic; they were utterly weary of so long a sojourn at Ariminum, and this weariness disposed them to listen to any argument which might justify concession. They were told, most falsely, that the Council of Seleucia had accepted the Dated Creed. "Will you rend the West from the East?". Again, "Why will you stand out for a word? Is it Christ you worship, or is it this word Homoousion?"
The resolution of the majority, thus undermined, broke down with a crash. Bishop after bishop signed the imperial creed, on the ground that the substantial doctrine of Nicaea could not depend on the word Homoousion; but about twenty still held out, headed by two Gallicans, Phoebadius and Servatius. Taurus tried both menaces and tears, urging them and imploring them to imitate, and thereby release, their brethren. Phoebadius answered, "Any suffering rather than an Arian creed". Valens, after some days had been thus spent, openly declared, as if referring to rumours about a treacherous purpose, that he was no Arian; he abhorred the Arian blasphemies. "If," he added, " you think the creed inadequate, you may affix to it what explanations you will". They caught eagerly at the notion; and on a following day Muzonius, an aged African bishops, proposed that the opinions popularly ascribed to Valens and his friends should be read out, and condemned by the Council. "Be it so", answered all the bishops. Claudius, an Italian bishop, was appointed to read them. Valens broke in, loudly disclaiming them, and repeating anathemas which the Council gladly echoed. "Anathema to him who denies the Son to be begotten before the ages; to be like the Father according to the Scriptures; to be co-eternal with the Father. If any one calls the Son a creature as the other creatures are; if any one says that He is from things nonexistent, and not from God the Father; if any one says, There was a time when He was not; let him be anathema". The bishops and spectators clapped their hands and stamped with joy. Claudius added, "My lord and brother has forgotten one thing; in order to make everything clear, let us condemn this other statement : if any one says that the Son was before all ages, but not altogether before all time, implying that something was prior to Him, let him bo anathema". Again the church rang with "Let him be anathema". Other propositions were condemned: no one now stood higher than Valens in point of orthodox reputation; all agreed in adopting the formula of Nice in the sense of these anathemas, and Valens, Ursacius, and others of their party were sent with the news of this agreement to the Emperor.
The Council of Ariminum had thus, in the words of Sulpicius, "a good beginning and a foul conclusion". It was not until after this conclusion that all its "foulness" became apparent. There was indeed, prima facie, a culpable surrender of the Nicene Creed; but the bishops thought they had kept its spirit by means of the anti-Arian statements which they had procured from Valens. And doubtless two or three of these statements were unequivocally anti-Arian and could only be got rid of by the most absurd sophistry. But the inexperienced Westerns did not see that others were ambiguous, and that the fourth really implied Arianism. Arius himself had plainly said, in writing to S. Alexander, that the Son was "God's perfect creature, but not as one of the creatures". Valens put this statement into a disguise, and the bishops accepted it as meaning that He was not a creature. They saw not what was implied in his phrase, "as the other creatures", i. e. that of all God's creatures He was the most excellent. By such miserable means, terror and detention on the one side, and shameless equivocation on the other, did Homoean Arianism, working through an ultra-Arian instrument, win its scandalous victory in the close of 359. If the event gave a severe shock to the moral authority of synods, if it showed that a great Council might do what the Church was called upon to repudiate,—it also exposed the untruthfulness which characterized the Arian policy.
TRIUMPH OF ACACIANISM.
We must now change the scene to Constantinople. Soon after the Conference at Nice in October, the Acacians arrived from Secleucia, and prejudiced Constantius against the majority of that Council. When the deputies of the Council came, and denounced Eudoxius as the author of an Anomoean paper which they showed to Constantius, Eudoxius attributed the paper to Aetius. He was summoned, and avowed that it was his. Constantius ordered him to be exiled, but did not then carry out the sentence. Eustathius proceeded. "Eudoxius agrees with Aetius. If he does not, let him condemn this paper". Eudoxius, as cowardly as he was profane, shrank from the Emperor's roused anger, and condemned the Anomoion, with other Arian terms. Constantius resolved to examine Aetius, who was then brought before him and successfully encountered by Basil and Eustathius; the great Basil being in attendance on his namesake.
The Ariminian deputies now arrived, and the Seleucians in vain endeavored to prevent them from joining Acacius and Eudoxius; urging that although Aetius individually had been condemned, it was necessary to condemn his doctrine. The Ariminians at once took the side of the Acacians, and explained that their fourth anathema did in fact include Christ among the creatures. Other statements of theirs they explained away, e. g. "when we called the Son eternal, we meant in regard to future existence". "With all our hearts", said the Acacians, "do we accept the Ariminian creed"; and Constantius, after carrying on the debate through the last day and night of the year, obliged the Seleucians also to accept it.
COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE.
A Council was now held (Jan. 360) at Constantinople. Some fifty bishops were present. One of them was a very eminent man, Ulphilas, successor of that Theophilus, bishop of the Goths, who had sat in the Nicene Council.
Acacius ruled the assembly. The Creed of Ariminum was adopted; but it is probable that Ulphilas and others signed it in simplicity, without any Arian meaning. Aetius was made a scapegoat by the Acacians, and deposed from the diaconate. Some few bishops declined to condemn Aetius, and were excommunicated unless in six months they should repent. Having taken this line against Aetius, the Council deposed the leading Semi-Arians, but not on doctrinal grounds. Basil of Ancyra was called a hinderer of tranquillity, and accused of violent acts and neglect of all Church discipline. Eustathius had been already censured by his own father, the bishop of Cappadocian Caesarea, and by a local Council. Macedonius had caused much bloodshed, and been lax in discipline. Cyril, Silvanus, Eleusius, and others, were similarly deposed. Banishment followed on deposition.
During the sittings of the Council, Hilary, who had followed the Seleucians to Constantinople, presented an address, still extant, to Constantius. He was apprehensive, he said, for the Emperor's salvation. Error was putting an unnatural sense on sacred words : the very names of Father, Son, and Spirit were being robbed of their true meaning. "There are as many faiths as fancies". In this confusion of jarring formulas, Homoiousion and Homoion were in turn asserted; nothing was sacred or inviolable "We settle a creed a year, or a creed a month, we repent of what we have settled, defend those who repent, anathematize those whom we have defended. There is not a heretic who does not pretend that his teaching is Scriptural". Hilary requested leave to discuss the faith before the Emperor and Council, and concluded by referring to texts of Scripture. His request was refused; he vented his intense indignation against Constantius, as a "precursor of Antichrist," in a vehement invective which as yet he did not publish, and he was ultimately sent back to Gaul as a disturber of peace, without any remission of the sentence of exile.
The unreality of the Council's censure on Anomoeanism, in the person of Aetius, was shown by the enthronement of Eudoxius at Constantinople on Jan. 27. On Feb. 15 he dedicated the restored church of the Eternal Wisdom, for the service of which Constantius offered splendid vessels, curtains, altar-cloths, blazing with gold and jewels. In the midst of the ceremonial, Eudoxius began his sermon with these words; "The Father is irreligious, the Son religious". A commotion followed; the Bishop bade the people to calm themselves. "Surely the Father worships none, and the Son worships the Father!". A burst of laughter followed this speech, which became a good jest in the society of the capital. Eudoxius was well fitted to hand on the old tradition of Arian profanity.
In one case, however, he exhibited more reserve. Eunomius, the disciple of Aetius, was a voluble Anomoean disputant, a rationalist in principle, and very ignorant, says Socrates, both of the letter and the spirit of Scripture. Eudoxius appointed him bishop of Cyzicus, advising that for the present he should conceal his Anomoeanism. But an artifice on the part of some of his people drew from the bishop such unequivocal expressions of that heresy, that he was at once denounced before the Emperor, and Eudoxius was obliged to depose his friend; who, finding himself sacrificed, like Aetius, to the worldly policy of a man who shared his views, proceeded to form a separate sect, and became the consolidator of extreme Arianism.
The Semi-Arian bishops revoked their adhesion to the Ariminian creed, and wrote to all the Churches against Eudoxius and his party. Macedonius is said to have at this time brought forward his peculiar heresy regarding the Holy Spirit, whom he spoke of as the proper Arians had spoken of the Son. The Son was God, like in essence to the Father : the Spirit was but the minister of the Son. Athanasius, while in the desert, heard that such a theory was forming, and wrote against it to Serapion of Thmuis.
The Ariminian creed was enforced alike in East and West, and caused inconceivable perplexity and suffering. When S. Jerome says, "The whole world groaned, and marvelled to find itself Arian", he expresses the indignation with which the Western Church heard of the successful trickery of Valens. Liberius and Vincent refused to admit the new creed, and this firmness went far to efface the stain of former lapses. Gregory of Elvira was commended by Eusebius for refusing to communicate with "hypocrites". Lucifer wrote against Constantius in a style of rude and verbose invective, and sent his tracts both to the Emperor and to Athanasius. The latter, who had written his work on the Councils of Seleucia and Ariminum before he heard of their fatal result, acknowledged Lucifer's tracts in a letter full of sympathy; but at the same time, in a spirit unlike Lucifer's, expressed a compassionate hope for the restoration of those who had yielded through "temporal fear". There were multitudes in the East to whom these words might apply, who had temporized or had been scared into conformity to the Ariminian creed, beside those who, like the old Bishop of Nazianzum, had accepted it because it was "Scriptural in language". Of the Ariminian bishops themselves, some, in despair, adhered to the Arian communion; others, bewailing their own weakness, communicated with no bishops whatever; others wrote to the exiled Catholic bishops, professing the true faith, and imploring their communion; a few "defended their mistake as if it were a deliberate action". Hilary exerted himself in Gaul to undo, as far as he could, the work of Ariminum; councils were held, at which the bishops who had yielded might recover their ground by condemning the heresy. At the Council of Paris, the prelates, replying to the Seleucians, declared that they had been deceived as to the mind of the Easterns; that they now accepted the Homoousion in its true sense; that they condemned Valens and his party; that Saturninus, who withstood all movements against Arianism, was excluded from their communion.
We find Hilary now rejoined by one who had been his disciple before his exile, and was destined to be the next great Gallican saint. This was the famous Martin. Born in Pannonia about 316, he had served in the army, and according to the beautiful legend inseparable from his names, had, "while yet a catechumen, bestowed the half- cloak on Christ". He had then been baptized; had obtained, some years later, his discharge from the army, and been made an exorcist by Hilary, who would fain have made him a deacon. Visiting Illyricum, he was scourged for opposing Arianism. During Hilary's exile he led a monastic life at Milan, until he was driven away by Auxentius. He now established near Poitiers the first monastery that had been seen in Gaul.
The see of Antioch remained vacant until the beginning of 361, when a Council assembled which placed Meletius in the see. This excellent man had a rich persuasive eloquence, and a disposition which endeared him both to Catholics and Arians. A rumour began to spread that he was positively Catholic. After some sermons of a general character, he was desired to take part in a series of expositions of the great controverted text, Prov. VIII. 22. After George of Laodicea had given a strongly Arian address,—he had now deserted the Semi-Arians,—and Acacius had read a paper which seemed to aim at a safe ambiguity, Meletius rose, and asserted in unequivocal language the essential doctrine of Nicaea. The church rang with cries of applause and wrath, proceeding from Catholics and Arians. The Arian archdeacon stopped the new patriarch's mouth with his hand; Meletius held out three fingers, then one; and when his lips were freed by the archdeacon's seizing his hands, he repeated aloud his former words, and exhorted the people to cling to the Nicene faith. This could not be borne; the Council, at another session, deposed Meletius; Constantius drove him into exile; Euzoius, the old comrade of Arius, was made bishop of Antioch; and a new creed was published which affirmed the Son to be in nowise like to the Father, and to be made out of what once was not. The authors of this Anomoean formula, being asked how they could reconcile it with a recognition of the Son as "God of God", employed the quibble which had been originally invented by George of Laodicea, "He is of God as all things are", (1 Cor. XI. 12). But the indignation of the people compelled them to withdraw this creed, and fall back on that of Ariminum.
It may here be well to enumerate the various Arian formulas, put forth by individuals or Councils since the commencement of the controversy. 1, the letter of Arius and his friends to S. Alexander; 2, the creed of Arius and Euzoius, which beguiled Constantius; 3, a formula directed against Marcellus by a Council at Constantinople in 336; 4, 5, 6, 7, the creeds of Antioch, 341, 342; 8, the Macrostich; 9, the creed of Philippopolis; 10, first Sirmian; 11, the "letter of Constantius" proposed at Milan in 355; 12, a creed framed at Antioch, 356; 13, second Sirmian, "the blasphemy"; 14, the digest signed by Liberius, or "the perfidious faith"; 15, the formula of Ancyra; 16, third Sirmian, or Dated Creed; 17, Acacian creed proposed at Seleucia; 18, third Sirmian revised at Nice, signed at Ariminum and Constantinople; 19, Aetius' formula, denounced by Semi-Arians; 20, Anomoean creed of Antioch. "They will never be at rest," said Athanasius, "until they acknowledge the Nicene Council". These tossings to and fro of Arianism, this bewildering succession of formulas, with the perpetual burry and excitement produced by so many synods, were doubtless a stumbling-block to the heathen, and tended to cast a stigma on synodal action. But the list given above may show on which side was consistency and simplicity. While heresy was thus prolific in self-contradiction, the Church stood by the one Creed of the great Council which gave the law to all her synods. Thus in 361 the downward tendencies of Acacianism were fully manifest; its natural goal was the Anomoion. And doubtless many a Semi-Arian was led by the teaching of events to feel that his natural refuge against Acacians and Anomoeans was that one creed which he had been taught to dread as Sabellian; that in the Ancyrene dogmatism he could find no security; in short, that he must either sink or ascend. An indication of the tendency of Arianism to breed new errors had been already given in Aerius, whose disgust at being passed over when Eustathius was made bishop of Sebaste had led him to embrace pure Arianism, and to maintain the equality of presbyters to bishops, —a doctrine rebuked by anticipation in the Alexandrian proceedings as to Colluthus,—to say that it was wrong to pray for the departed, and to denounce as Judaical the observance of fast-days and of Easter. We are told that his adherents mocked at the Catholic solemnities in Holy Week.
Euzoius was of course repudiated by all the orthodox in Antioch. Those of them who had up to this time remained in the established communion, broke off from it altogether, and regarded the exiled Meletius as their bishop. But those who had hitherto been known as the Eustathians, and with whom Athanasius had communicated, could not bring themselves to unite with men who recognised a bishop of Arian consecration, although he might now be of orthodox belief. This old Catholic body, therefore, continued to worship apart from their "Meletian" brethren, as well as from Euzoius and his adherents S. Paulinus, a priest of high character, was their head.
This year was full of agitating rumours. It had been known that the Caesar Julian in 360 had been compelled by his soldiers to accept the imperial title, and that Constantius had spurned his proposal for a division of the empire. It was now reported that he was on his way to the East. Civil war, then, was impending. But many probably, thought that a baptized communicant, who had been ranked among ecclesiastics as a reader, and had been friendly to Hilary on the occasion of his exile, would prove at least as good a sovereign for Christian interests as the Arian catechumen who had so long been vexing the Church. They were presently undeceived. Julian had indeed attended the Church service at Vienne on the recent feast of Epiphany; but in the course of his expedition he declared himself a worshipper of the gods. Constantius, who at first talked of going to "hunt" Julian, began ere long to be haunted by superstitious presages of death; he caused Euzoius to baptize him at Antioch, and hurried westwards. At the foot of Mount Taurus he was stricken with a fever which made his flesh like fire to the touch; and he expired after a prolonged death-struggle, on the 4th of November, 361.