« PreviousContinue »
CHAP. 1.- RETURN OF ST. ATHANASIUS.
ATHANASIUS returned to Alexandria after having remained two years and four months at Treves. Constantine, the eldest son of Constantine the Great, whose imperial sway extended over Gaul, wrote the following letter to the church of Alexandria.
CHAP. II.-EPISTLE OF THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE, THE SON
OF CONSTANTINE THE GREAT, TO THE ALEXANDRIANS. “ CONSTANTINE CÆSAR to the members of the Catholic Church of Alexandria.
“I think that you cannot have forgotten how Athanasius, the interpreter of the venerated law, was sent for a time into Gaul, on account of the sanguinary designs of his enemies, lest he should fall a sacrifice to the cruelty of those evil men. To avoid this imminent peril, he was directed to remain in a city under my jurisdiction, where he was abundantly supplied with every necessary, but the greatness of his virtue, supported as it was by the grace of God, led him to despise all the calamities of adverse fortune. Constantine, my lord and my father, of blessed memory, intended to have reinstated him in his former bishopric, and to have restored him to you; but as he was arrested by the hand of death before his desires were accomplished, I, being his heir, must carry them into execution. You will learn from your bishop himself with how much respect I have acted towards him. Nor indeed is it surprising that he should have been thus treated by me; I was incited to this line of conduct by perceiving his great virtue, and the love evinced by you towards him. May Divine Providence watch over you, beloved brethren !”
According to the directions contained in this letter, St. Athanasius returned from exile ; he was most gladly welcomed both by the rich and by the poor, by the inhabitants
Valesius shows reasons for believing that the banishment of Athanasius did not last so long as two years.
of cities, and by those of the provinces. Hence Eusebius, Theognis, and those of their faction resorted to their former machinations, and endeavoured to prejudice the young emperor against him. I shall now proceed to relate in what manner Constantius swerved from the doctrines of the apostles.
CHAP. III.--DECLENSION OF THE EMPEROR CONSTANTIUS FROM
THE TRUE FAITH,
CONSTANTIA,' the widow of Licinius, was the sister of Constantine. She was intimately acquainted with a certain priest who had imbibed the doctrines of Arius. He did not openly acknowledge his heterodoxy ; but, in the frequent conversations which he had with her, he did not refrain from declaring that Arius had been unjustly calumniated. After the death of her ungodly husband, the renowned Constantine did everything in his power to solace and comfort her. He attended her also in her last illness, and rendered her every service which she could desire. She then presented the priest whom I mentioned to the emperor, and entreated him to receive him under his protection. Constantine acceded to her request, and soon after fulfilled his promise. But though the priest was permitted the utmost freedom, and was advanced to a most honourable office, yet he always concealed his corrupt principles, being well aware of the firmness with which the emperor adhered to the truth. When Constantine was on the point of being translated to a higher and an eternal kingdom, he drew up a will, in which he directed that his dominions should be divided among his children. None of them were with him when he was dying, so he intrusted the will to the priest alone, and desired him to give it to Constantius, who, being at a shorter distance from the spot than his brothers, was expected to arrive the first. Accordingly, upon the arrival of Constantius, the priest presented the will to him ; and he thus obtained his favour, and was commanded to visit him frequently. Perceiving the weakness of Constantius, whose mind could only be compared to reeds driven to and fro by the wind, he became emboldened to attack the doctrines of the gospel. He loudly deplored the troubles of the church, and asserted that they were all produced by those who had appended the unscriptural word "consubstantial”l to the confession of faith, and that all the disputes among the clergy and the laity had been occasioned by them. He calumniated Athanasius and all who coincided in his opinions, and formed designs for their destruction. He had for his accomplices, Eusebius, Theognis, and Theodore, bishop of Perinthus.? The latter, who went generally by the name of Heracleotes, was a man of great erudition, and had written an exposition of the Holy Scriptures. These bishops resided near the emperor, and frequently visited him; they assured him that the return of Athanasius from banishment had occasioned many evils, and had excited a tempest by which not only Egypt, but also Palestine, Phænicia, and the adjacent countries, had been shaken.
1 Constantia died A. D. 329.
CHAP. IV.-SECOND EXILE OF ST. ATHANASIUS.-ORDINATION
AND DEATH OF GREGORY. With these and similar arguments the bishops assailed the weak-minded emperor, and persuaded him to expel Athanasius from his church. But obtaining timely intimation of their design, Athanasius departed towards the west. The partisans of Eusebius had sent false accusations against him to Julius, bishop of Rome. In obedience to the laws of the church,3 Julius summoned the accusers and the accused to Rome, that the cause might be tried. Athanasius, accordingly, set out for Rome, but the calumniators refused to go because they saw that their falsehood would inevitably be detected. But perceiving that the flock of Athanasius was left without a pastor, they appointed over it a wolf instead of a pastor. Gregory,
for this was his name, surpassed the wild beasts in deeds of cruelty and ferocity, and during six years 4
3 Valesius says that it is doubtful to what law or canon reference is here made, and suggests that it may possibly be to one which forbade sentence to be pronounced until both parties had been heard. It is more probable that Theodoret refers to the ancient practice of all churches, to appeal in matters of dispute to the authority of the Roman see. Compare Socrat. Eccl. Hist. b. i. chaps. 8, 15, and 24.
4 Theodoret here incidentally corrects the account given by Sozomen and Socrates, who relate that Gregory was deposed very soon after his promotion to the bishopric.
he grievously oppressed the flock: but at the expiration of that period, he was destroyed by the flock. 1 Athanasius went to Constantius, (Constantine, the eldest brother, having fallen in battle,) and complained of the plots laid by the Arians against him, and of their opposition to the apostolical faith. He did not fail to remind him of his father's having attended the general council in person, and of his having confirmed by an express law all the decrees which were there issued. The emperor was excited to emulation by hearing these commendations of his father's zeal. He wrote to his brother exhorting him to preserve inviolate the religion of their father, which ought by right of inheritance to be theirs also; for it was by his piety that Constantine had strengthened his empire, expelled the tyrants of Rome, and subjugated the barbarians. Constans was induced by this letter to summon the bishops from the east and from the west to Sardica, which was a city of Illyria, and the metropolis of Dacia, that they might deliberate on the means of removing the numerous troubles of the church.
CHAP. V.-Paul, BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE. Paul, bishop of Constantinople, who faithfully maintained orthodox doctrines, was accused by the Arians of having excited seditions, and of having committed the other crimes which they usually laid to the charge of all those who preached true piety. The people, who feared the machinations of his enemies, would not permit him to go to Sardica.? The Arians, taking advantage of the weakness of the emperor, procured from him an edict of banishment against Paul, who was, accordingly, sent to Cucusum, a little town formerly included in Cappadocia, but which now forms part of Lesser Armenia. But these disturbers of the public peace were not satisfied with having driven the admirable Paul into a desert. They sent agents of their cruelty to despatch him by a violent death. St. Athanasius testifies to this fact in the defence which he wrote of the flight of Paul. He uses the following
1. D. 349, Tillemont; A. D. 346, Mansi. 3 Theodoret here corrects Socrates and Sozomen, who make Paul to have been the companion of Athanasius, when he fled to Constans for protection.
words: “They pursued Paul, bishop of Constantinople, and having seized him at Cucusum, a city of Cappadocia, they had him strangled, by order of Philip the pro-consul, who was the protector of their heresy, and the active agent of their most atrocious projects. Such were the murders to which the blasphemy of Arius gave rise. A virulent opposition was raised by this faction against the only begotten Son of God, and his servants were not spared.”
CHAP. VI.—THE HERESY OF MACEDONIUS. THE Arians, having effected the death of Paul, or rather having despatched him to the kingdom of heaven, gave his bishopric to Macedonius, who, they imagined, held the same sentiments and belonged to the same faction as themselves, because he also blasphemed the Holy Ghost. But, shortly after, they deposed him, because he refused to call him a creature whom the Holy Scriptures affirm to be the Son of God. After his ejection, he became the leader of a sect of
He taught that the Son of God is not of the same substance as the Father, but that he resembles Him in every particular. He also affirmed that the Holy Ghost is a creature. These circumstances occurred not very long ago in the precise manner in which we have narrated them.
CHAP. VII.-COUNCIL HELD AT SARDICA. Two hundred and fifty bishops? assembled at Sardica, (A. D. 347 al. 344,) as is proved by ancient archives. The great Athanasius, Asclepas, bishop of Gaza, already mentioned, and Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra, the metropolis of Galatia, who had held this bishopric ever since the council of Nice, all repaired thither. The calumniators, and the chiefs of the Arian faction, who had judged the cause of Athanasius, also attended. But when they found that the members of the synod were firmly attached to divine and sound doctrines, they would not even enter the council, although they had been summoned to it; and they fled from the city in much trepidation. All these circumstances are far more clearly explained in a letter drawn up by the council ; and I shall therefore now insert it.
; See Socrates, Eccl. Hist. ii. 20, and the notes of Valesius in loco.