« PreviousContinue »
He was created, that before he was made he existed not, that there was a period in which he had no existence, and that he can, according to his own free-will, be capable either of virtue or of vice. The holy council condemned all these assertions, and impatiently refused to listen to such impious and foolish opinions, and such blasphemous expressions. The final decision concerning him you already know, or will soon hear; but we will not mention it now, lest we should appear to trample upon a man who has already received the recompence due to his sins. Theonas, bishop of Marmarica, and Secundus, bishop of Ptolemais, have, however, been led astray by his impiety, and have received the same sentence. But after we had, by the grace of God, been delivered from these false and blasphemous opinions, and from those persons who dared to raise discord and division among a once peaceable people ; there yet remained the temerity of Melitius, and of those ordained by him. We shall now inform you, beloved brethren, of the decrees of the council on this subject. It was decided by the holy council that Melitius should be treated with clemency, though, strictly speaking, he was not worthy of the least concession. He was permitted to remain in his own city, but was divested of all power, whether of nomination or of ordination, neither was he to exercise these functions in any province or city: he only retained the mere title and the honour of the episcopal office. Those who had received ordination at his hands, were to submit to a more holy reordination ;' they were to be admitted to communion, and were to receive the honour of the ministry; but in every diocese and church they were to be accounted inferior to those who were ordained before them by Alexander, our muchhonoured fellow-minister. It was decreed that they should not elect or nominate, or indeed do anything without the consent of the bishops of the catholic and apostolical church, who are under Alexander. But those who, by the grace of God, and in answer to prayer, have been preserved from schism,
Uvotikwrépa Xelpotovía. Compare Socrates, Eccl. Hist. i. 9. Valesius very correctly argues against the view which would interpret the word Xelpotovia as merely the ecclesiastical benediction, and not what he calls “Sacramentum ordinis." By the 6th Canon of the council of Nice it was ordained that the consecration of bishops without the consent of their metropolitans was void: and the Melitian bishops had been consecrated without the consent of Alexander, who was the metropolitan of Egypt.
and have continued blameless in the catholic and apostolic church, are to have the power of electing, and of nominating those who are worthy of the clerical office, and are permitted to do everything that accords with law and the authority of the church. If it should happen, that any of those now holding an office in the church should die, then let those recently admitted be advanced to the honours of the deceased, provided only that they appear worthy, and that the people choose them, and that the election be confirmed and ratified by the catholic bishop of Alexandria. The same privilege has been conceded to all the others. With respect to Melitius, however, an exception has been made, both on account of his former insubordination, and of the rashness and impetuosity of his disposition ; for if the least authority were accorded to him, he might abuse it by again exciting confusion. These are the things which relate to Egypt, and to the holy church of Alexandria. If any other resolutions were carried, you will hear of them from Alexander, our most honoured fellow-minister and brother, who will give you still more accurate information, because he himself directed, as well as participated in, everything that took place. We must also apprize you, that, according to your prayers, we were all of one mind respecting the most holy paschal feast, so that our brethren of the East, who did not previously celebrate the festival as the Romans, and as you, and, indeed, as all have done from the beginning, will henceforth celebrate it with you. Rejoice, then, in the success of our undertakings, and in the general peace and concord, and in the extirpation of every schism ; and receive with the greatest honour and the most fervent love Alexander, our fellow-minister and your bishop, who imparted joy to us by his presence, and who, at a very advanced period of life, has undergone so much fatigue for the purpose of restoring peace among you. Pray for us all, that what we have equitably decreed may remain stedfast, through our Lord Jesus Christ, being done, as we trust, according to the good will of God and the Father in the Holy Ghost, to whom be glory for ever and
THE CON-SUBSTANTIAL AND ETERNAL TRINITY. Notwithstanding the endeavours of that divine assembly of bishops to suppress the unsound theories of Melitius, vestiges of his infatuation remain to this day ; for there are in some
districts assemblies of monks who neglect sound doctrine, and observe certain vain points of discipline, upholding the same infatuated views as the Jews and the Samaritans. emperor also wrote to those bishops who were unable to attend the council, an account of its transactions. And I consider it of importance to insert this epistle in my work, as it clearly evidences the piety of the writer.
CHAP. X.-THE EPISTLE OF THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE, CON
CERNING THE MATTERS TRANSACTED AT THE COUNCIL, ADDRESSED TO THOSE BISHOPS WHO WERE NOT PRESENT.
“ CONSTANTINE AUGUSTUS to the churches.
“ Viewing the common prosperity enjoyed at this moment, as the result of the great power of Divine grace, I am desirous that the blessed members of the catholic church should be preserved in one faith, in sincere love, and in one form of religion, towards Almighty God. But, because no firmer or more effective measure could be adopted to secure this end, than that of submitting each holy mode of worship to the examination of all or most of all the bishops, I convened as many of them as possible, and took my seat among them as one of yourselves ; for I will not deny that truth which is the source of the greatest joy to me, namely, that I am your fellow-servant. Every doubtful point obtained a careful investigation, until doctrines pleasing to God, and conducive to unity, were fully established, so that no room remained for division or controversy concerning the faith. The commemoration of the paschal feast being then debated, it was unanimously decided, that it should everywhere be celebrated upon the same day. What can be more lovely, or more reasonable, than that that festival by which we have received the hope of immortality, should be carefully celebrated by all with the same order, and in the same unvarying mode ? It was, in the first place, declared improper to follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this holy festival, because their hands are imbued in crime, and their minds blinded with defilement. By rejecting their custom, we substitute and hand down to succeeding ages one which is more reasonable, and which has been observed ever since the day of our Lord's sufferings. Let us, then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries. Another way has been pointed out by our Saviour. A better and more lawful line of conduct is inculcated by our holy religion. Let us with one accord walk therein, my much-honoured brethren, studiously avoiding all contact with so evil a people. They boast that without their instructions we should be unable to commemorate the festival properly. This is extremely absurd: what truth can be held by those who, after having compassed the death of the Lord, have not been guided by reason, but by the deceitful aberrations of their own mind ? In that very point they have so far lost sight of truth, by always acting according to their own misguided opinions, that they celebrate the Passover twice in one year.
What motive can we have to follow those who are thus led astray by error, for we could never judge it right to celebrate it twice in one year. But, even if all these facts did not exist, your own sagacity would prompt you to watch with diligence and with prayer, lest your pure minds should become defiled by intercourse with a people soutterly depraved. It must also be borne in mind, that a difference of opinion upon so important a point as the celebration of a religious rite is unlawful. One day has been set apart by our Saviour for a commemoration of our deliverance and of his most holy sufferings; he decreed that his catholic church should be one, and that the members, though dispersed throughout various parts of the world, should be one in spirit, and should be directed by the same Divine command. Do exert your usual sagacity, and reflect how evil it would be, and how improper, that days devoted by some to fasting, should be spent by others in convivial feasting: and yet this is, in fact, the case. During the paschal feast, some are rejoicing in festivals and relaxations, while others are bowed down by long fastings. That this impropriety should be rectified, and that all these diversities of commemoration should be resolved into one form, is the will of Divine Providence, as I am convinced you will admit. Therefore, this irregularity must be corrected, in order that we may no more have anything in common with the parricides and the murderers of our Lord. An orderly and excellent form of commemoration is observed in all the churches of the western, of the southern, and of the northern countries, and even in the eastern ; this
; form being universally commended, I certified your readiness to adopt it likewise. Receive, then, willingly the one regulation unanimously adopted in the city of Rome, throughout Italy, in all Africa, in Egypt, Spain, Gaul, Britain, Libya, Greece, in the dioceses of Asia, and of Pontus, and in Cilicia. Reflect, that the churches of the places above-mentioned are not only greater in point of number, but also that their common mode of procedure rests upon accurate and well-founded arguments, and that we ought not to have anything in common with the perjured Jews.
“I now proceed briefly to recapitulate the whole of the preceding. The judgment of all is, that the holy paschal feast should be held on one and the same day; for, in so holy a matter, it is not right that difference of custom should prevail. It is the more commendable to obey this decree, because it precludes all association with error and with sin. This being the case, receive with gladness the heavenly gift and sacred command ; for all that is transacted in the holy councils of the bishops is sanctioned by the Divine will. Therefore, when you have made known to all our beloved brethren the subject of this epistle, you will be bound to conform to the regular observance of this holy day, so that when, according to my long-cherished desire, I shall be with you, I may be able to celebrate with you this holy festival upon one and the same day; and that I may rejoice with you all in witnessing the cruelty of the devil, through Divine grace, destroyed by our efforts, and in perceiving that faith and peace and concord are everywhere in a flourishing condition. May God preserve you, beloved brethren.”
CHAP. XI.—THE DAILY WANTS OF THE CHURCH SUPPLIED BY
THE EMPEROR, AND AN ACCOUNT OF HIS OTHER VIRTUES.
Thus did the emperor write to those who were absent. Those who attended the council were three hundred and eighteen in number; and to these he manifested great kindness, addressing them with much gentleness, and presenting them with gifts. He ordered numerous seats to be prepared for the accommodation of them all during the repast to which he invited them. Those who were most worthy, he received at his own table, and provided other seats for the rest. Ob