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once filled Bezaleell with architectural skill, graciously enabled this woman to devise the plan of a church. When she had drawn the plan, the erection of the church was immediately commenced. When the edifice was completed, the roof put on, and everything supplied except the priests, this admirable woman persuaded the king to send to the Roman empire for teachers of religion. The king accordingly despatched an embassy for the
emperor Constantine, who was warmly attached to the cause of religion, gladly welcomed the ambassadors when informed of the purport of the embassy. He selected a bishop endowed with great faith, wisdom, and virtue, and presenting him with many gifts, sent him to the Iberians, that he might lead them to the knowledge of God. Not content with having effected so much for Iberia, he was led by his own feelings to protect the Christians in Persia ; and, learning that they were persecuted, and that the king treated them with great cruelty, he wrote to him, entreating him to embrace the Christian religion himself, as well as to honour its professors. His own letter will render the subject more intelligible than any description,
CHAP. XXV.---LETTER WRITTEN BY THE EMPEROR CONSTAN
TO SAPOR, THE KING OF PERSIA, RESPECTING THE CHRISTIANS.
“In preserving the holy faith I enjoy the light of truth, and by following the light of truth I attain to greater knowledge of the faith. I adhere to that most holy religion which inculcates the recognition and worship of one God. By the powerful protection of that God, I came at first from the farthest boundaries of the ocean, and have now filled the whole empire with hope of deliverance from trouble. All the provinces which were suffering from the oppression of tyrants have been rescued, and their property restored. This I declare to be the work of God. My soldiers believe in this God ; they bear his standard, and through him they gain the most famous victories. I confess that God is ever in my mind ; that my spirit dwells upon the contemplation of his elevation and glory, and that I simply kneel when I call upon him ; shunning the effusion of blood, the odour arising from victims, the light kindled
See Exod. xxxv. 30, and xxxvi.—xxxix.
by means of earthly materials, and all the other evil superstitions and awful errors, by means of which the heathen are destroyed: for God does not permit those gifts to be abused which, in his good providence, he has bestowed upon men for the supply of their wants. He only requires of men purity of mind and a spotless conscience: their virtue and their piety are weighed by Him. He is pleased with modesty and with gentleness; he delights in meekness, and hates those who excite contentions : he loves faith, visits unbelief with chastisement, and takes vengeance upon those who, arrogant of power, are haughty and contumelious. He abases those who are proud, and rewards the humble-minded and the forbearing. He protects those kings who exercise justice, increases their power, and blesses them with peace. I do not deceive myself, my brother, when I confess that God is the Ruler and the Father of all men.
Many who preceded me upon the imperial throne were so deluded by error as to deny this truth. But their latter end was so dreadful, that they are held up as a fearful warning to deter all others from the commission of similar iniquity. That man was one of them who was driven hence by Divine vengeance like a thunderbolt into your country, where he raised a memorial of his infamy. But the age in which we live is distinguished by the open and manifest punishments which have been inflicted on such persons. I myself have witnessed the end of one of those who had enacted unjust laws against the people who serve God. Hence it is that I more especially thank God for having now, by a peculiar dispensation of his providence, restored peace to those who observe his law. I am led to expect future happiness and security from the circumstance, that God has in his goodness united all men in the exercise of the one pure and true religion. I rejoice exceedingly to hear that multitudes have become Christians, and that the finest provinces of Persia are honoured with their residence. I hope that they, and you likewise, will be blessed with prosperity in all that concerns you both, and that you may experience the favour and the goodness of the Ruler of the universe. I commend the Christians to your care, and leave them in your protection; treat them, I beseech you, with benevolence. Your fidelity in this respect will be attended by results incalculably beneficial to yourself as well as to us."
This excellent emperor held all who had embraced the true religion in such high estimation, that he not only watched over the believers who resided in his dominions, but also assisted those who were located in other and distant regions. For this reason he was blessed with the special protection of God, so that although his dominions extended throughout Europe, and Africa, and the greater part of Asia, his subjects were all obedient, and attached to his government. All foreign nations recognised his power, some spontaneously, others from having been overcome by him in war. Trophies were erected everywhere to honour him, and he was universally proclaimed the conqueror : but his praise has been resounded by many other writers. We must resume the thread of our history. This emperor, who deserves the highest fame, devoted his whole mind with zeal worthy of the apostles to ecclesiastical matters, while those who had been admitted to the sacerdotal dignity not only neglected the church, but endeavoured to uproot it from the very foundations. They invented false accusations against all those who most firmly maintained the doctrines taught by the apostles, in order that they might depose and banish them. Their envy was not satisfied by the infamous falsehood which they had circulated against Eustathius, but they had recourse to every artifice to effect the ruin of the other great bulwark of religion. I shall relate these occurrences as concisely as possible.
CHAP. XXVI.-AN ACCOUNT OF THE PLOT FORMED AGAINST THE
ALEXANDER, that exemplary bishop, who had condemned the blasphemies of Arius, having died five months after the council of Nice, Athanasius was appointed to the church of Alexandria. He had from his youth been instructed in the Holy Scriptures ; and had attracted general admiration by his faithful discharge of the duties pertaining to each ecclesiastical degree. He had, at the general council
, so well defended the doctrines of the apostles, that he obtained the approbation of all who upheld the truth, and excited the enmity of those who opposed it. He had attended the council as one of the retinue of Alexander, for he was then very young, although he was
the principal deacon. When those who had denied the only begotten Son of God, heard of his appointment to the bishopric of Alexandria, they thought that his promotion would prove the destruction of their power : they, therefore, resorted to machinations against him. They bribed some of the adherents of Melitus, who had been deposed by the council of Nice, but who had persevered in exciting commotions in Thebes and in the country round Egypt, and persuaded them to go to the emperor, and to accuse Athanasius before him of having levied a tax upon Egypt, and of having given the proceeds of this taxation to a certain man who was preparing to usurp the imperial power. The emperor, astonished at this information, sent orders for Athanasius to repair to Constantinople. Upon his arrival he proved that the accusation was false, and was permitted to return to his church, as is shown by a letter on this subject from the emperor to the church of Alexandria. I shall only transcribe the concluding paragraph.
CHAP. XXVII.-LETTER FROM THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE TO
“BELIEVE me, my brethren, the wicked were unable to effect anything against your bishop. They surely could have been actuated by no other design than to make us lose time, and to leave no room for their own repentance in this life. Assist each other, love those who love you ; and exert all your power in the expulsion of those who wish to interrupt your concord. Look unto God, and love one another. I joyfully welcomed Athanasius your bishop; and I have conversed with him as with one whom I know to be a man of God.”
CHAP. XXVIII.-ANOTHER PLOT AGAINST THE BISHOP ATHA
THE calumniators of Athanasius felt no remorse ; on the contrary, they devised so bold a fiction against him, that it surpassed any fable that had been invented by the ancient writers, whether comic or tragic. They again bribed individuals of the same party ; and brought them before the emperor, to criminate the virtuous bishop. Amongst them were Eusebius, Theognis, and Theodore, bishop of Perinthus, a city now called Heraclea. After having accused Athanasius of dreadful crimes, which could not then be specified in detail, they persuaded the emperor to convene a council at Cæsarea in Palestine, where Athanasius had many enemies, and to command that his cause should be there tried. The emperor little suspected that bishops could be capable of such duplicity, and was perfectly ignorant of their intrigues; he was, therefore, persuaded by them to act as they desired. But the holy Athanasius, well aware of the malevolence of his enemies, refused to appear at the council. This served as a pretext to those who opposed the truth to criminate him still further; and they accused him before the emperor of contumacy and arrogance. And thus all his hope was frustrated; for the emperor, although exceedingly forbearing, became exasperated by their representations, and wrote to him in an angry manner, commanding him to repair to Tyre where the council was ordered to assemble, because, as I think, the metropolitan bishop of Cæsarea was distrusted by Athanasius. The emperor wrote also to the council in a style consistent with his devoted piety. His letter is as follows.
1 Valesius understands Theodoret here to mean the office of archdeacon, and remarks that this passage is by itself a proof that the dignity was in the gift of the bishop.
2 Compare the parallel account given by Socrates, Eccl. Hist. i. 35.
CHAP. XXIX.-EPISTLE OF THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE TO
“ CONSTANTINE AUGUSTUS to the holy council assembled in Tyre.
“In the general prosperity which distinguishes this period, it seems right that the Catholic Church should likewise be exempt from trouble, and that the servants of Christ should be freed from every annoyance. But as certain individuals, who are instigated by the love of contention, and who lead a life unworthy of their profession, endeavour to excite disorder, which appears to me to be a source of the greatest regret, I beseech you to assemble together, as I know that you yourselves desire, that a council may be convened without delay;