Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

them with letters to his brother ; he also despatched Salian, a military chief who was celebrated for his piety and integrity, on the same embassy. The letters which he forwarded by them, and which were worthy of himself, contained not only entreaties and counsels, but also menaces. In the first place, he requested his brother to attend to all that the bishops might say, and to take cognizance of the crimes of Stephen and of his accomplices. He also required him to restore Athanasius to his flock ; the calumny of the accusers and the injustice and impiety of his former judges having become evident. He added, that if he would not accede to his request, and perform this act of justice, that he would himself go to Alexandria, restore Athanasius to his flock which earnestly longed for him, and expel all opponents.

Constantius was at Antioch when he received this letter; and he agreed submit to all his brother's? requisitions. But the enemies of the truth were so much displeased at this proceeding, that they resorted to execrable and impious machinations.

The two bishops resided near the foot of a mountain, while the military commander had settled in a lodging in another quarter.

CHAP. IX.-ACCOUNT OF THE BISHOPS EUPHRATAS AND VIN

CENTIUS, AND OF THE PLOT FORMED AGAINST THEM. At this period Stephen governed the church of Antioch, and had well nigh effected its destruction ; for he employed several audacious tyrants as his ministers, who persecuted all those who maintained orthodox doctrines. The principal of these ministers was a young man of a rash and enterprising temperament, who led a very infamous life.

He not only dragged away men from the market-place, and treated them with indignity and insult, but he had the audacity to enter private houses, whence he carried off men and women of irreproachable character. But not to give a detailed relation of his crimes, I shall merely mention his daring conduct towards the bishops ; for this circumstance is alone sufficient to give

; an idea of the unlawful deeds of violence which he perpe

" He was consul in the West A. D. 348. He is mentioned by Prudentius.

? Tūv údivwv koivwvós. Others understand by this term “ the partner of his labours."

trated against the citizens. He went to a courtesan, and told her that some strangers had just arrived, who desired to pass the night with her. He placed fifteen men, attached to his faction, in ambush near a hedge close to the bottom of the mountain. He then went for the courtesan. After giving a preconcerted signal, they were admitted through the gate of the court-yard belonging to the inn where the bishops were lodging. The doors were opened by one of the household servants, who had been bribed by him: he conducted the woman into the house, and pointed out to her the door of the room occupied by one of the bishops, and desired her to enter. He then went to summon his accomplices. The door which he had pointed out happened to be that of Euphratas the elder bishop, whose room was situated near the vestibule. Vincentius, the other bishop, occupied a chamber more towards the centre of the house. When the courtesan entered the room of Euphratas, he heard the sound of her footsteps, and he asked who was there, for it was then dark. She spoke to him, and Euphratas was much troubled: he thought that it was the devil imitating the voice of a woman, and he called upon Christ the Saviour for aid. Onager, for this was the name of the leader of this wicked band, (a name' peculiarly appropriate to him, as not only with his hands but with his feet he violently assaulted all the pious,) had in the mean time returned with his lawless crew ; they loudly denounced as criminal all who expected future benefits from criminal judges. The noise aroused Vincentius and all the servants ; they arose, and ran to the spot whence it proceeded. They closed the gate of the court-yard, and captured seven of the adversaries ; but Onager with the others escaped by flight. The woman was committed to custody with those who had been seized. At the break of day the bishops apprized the military commander of what had occurred, and they all three proceeded together to the palace, to complain of the violence of Stephen ; they stated that his guilt was so evident that no recourse either to law or to torture was requisite to prove it. The military commander loudly demanded of the emperor, that the atrocious act should not be brought before a synod, but that it should be left to the arbitration of the public court of justice. He offered to give up the clergy attached to the bishops to be first

1 "Ovaypos, wild ass.

1

examined, provided that the agents of Stephen were subjected to the same course of interrogatories: but to this Stephen insolently objected, alleging that the clergy ought not to be examined by torture. The emperor and the principal persons present, decided that it would be better to judge the cause in the palace. The woman was first of all questioned ; she was asked by whom she was conducted to the inn where the bishops were lodging. She replied, that a young man came to her, and told her that some strangers had arrived, who were desirous of her company, and that in the evening he conducted her to the inn; that he summoned his band of soldiers, led her into the house, and desired her to go into the chamber adjoining the vestibule. She added, that the bishop asked who was there, that he was much terrified, and that he began to pray ; and that then others ran to the spot.

CHAP. X.-DEPOSITION OF STEPHEN. AFTER the judges had heard these replies, they ordered the youngest of those who had been arrested to be brought before them. Before he was subjected to the examination by scourging, he confessed the whole plot, and stated that it was planned and carried into execution by Onager. This latter affirmed that he had only acted according to the commands of Stephen. The guilt of Stephen being thus demonstrated, all those who were present at the trial desired the bishops to depose him, and expel him from the church. By his expulsion the church was not, however, freed from the evils of Arianism. Leontius,? who succeeded him in his bishopric, was a Phrygian of so subtle and artful a disposition, that he night be said to resemble the sunken rocks of the sea. We shall presently narrate more concerning him. The emperor Constantius, finding by experience what plots were formed against the bishops, wrote to the great Athanasius three different times, exhorting him to return from the West. I shall here insert the second letter, because it is the shortest of the three.

| This person is always mentioned by Athanasius as one of the Arian prelates. He was an åtokóros, (castratus,) but it is doubtful whether he was from Antioch or Alexandria.

CHAP. XI.-CONSTANTIUS AUGUSTUS THE CONQUEROR TO

ATHANASIUS. “ ALTHOUGH I have already apprized you by previous letters, that you can, without fear of molestation, return to our court, that you may, according to my ardent desire, be reinstated in your own bishopric, yet I now again despatch another letter to you, to exhort you to take immediately, without fear or suspicion, a public vehicle and return to us, in order that you may receive all that

you

desire.”

CHAP. XII.—THE SECOND RETURN OF ST. ATHANASIUS FROM

EXILE. WHEN Athanasius returned, Constantius received him with kindness, and restored to him his former authority over the church of Alexandria. But there were some attached to the court who were infected with the errors of Arianism ; and they suggested that Athanasius ought to cede one church to those who were unwilling to hold communion with him. On this being mentioned to the emperor, he interrogated Athanasius on the subject. Athanasius replied, that the imperial command appeared to be just; but that he also wished to make a request. The emperor readily promising to grant him whatever he might ask, he begged that a church might be given to those in Antioch who objected to hold communion with the members of the principal church; for justice required that a place of worship should also be given to them. This request was deemed just and reasonable by the emperor; but those of the Arian faction prevented its being carried into execution, alleging that churches ought not to be supplied to different parties. Constantius, after having had cause to regard Athanasius with high admiration, sent him to Alexandria. Gregory was dead, and Athanasius was received with joy. Public festivals were celebrated in honour of the pastor, and in commemoration of his return, and thanks were rendered to God. The death of Constans occurred a short time subsequently.

CHAP. XIII.--THIRD EXILE AND FLIGHT OF ATHANASIUS.

THOSE who had obtained entire ascendency over the mind of Constantius, reminded him that Athanasius had been the

66 Let

cause of differences between him and his brother, which had nearly led to the rupture of the bonds of nature, and the kindling of a civil war. Constantius was induced by these representations not only to banish, but also to condemn, the holy Athanasius to death ; and he accordingly despatched Sebastian, a military commander, with some of the soldiery, to slay him, as if he had been a criminal. The manner in which he escaped from the soldiers, avoiding this eminent danger by flight, is best narrated by himself. The following is the account which he gives in his apology for his flight : the mode of my retreat be investigated, and let the testimony of the opposite faction be collected. Some Arians accompanied the soldiers, as much for the purpose of urging them on, as of pointing me out to them. If the relation I am about to make do not excite their commiseration, it will

, at least, render them ashamed. It was night, and some of the people were keeping watch, and awaiting the hour for the meeting of the assembly. An army suddenly advanced upon them, consisting of a general and five thousand armed men with naked swords, bows and arrows, and clubs, as I have already stated. The general ordered the soldiers to surround the church, in order that those who might be in it might be prevented from leaving it. I imagined that I ought not in such a time of perplexity to leave the people, but that I ought rather for their sake to meet the danger; so I remained on my seat, and desired the deacon to read a psalm, and the people to respond, •His mercy endureth throughout all ages ;' after which, I directed that they should all return to their own houses. But the general with the soldiery forced their way into the church and went up to the altar in order to arrest me;2 the clergy and the laity who had remained clamorously besought me to make my escape. I firmly refused to do so until all the others had retreated. I rose, had a prayer offered, and directed all the people to retire ; ' It is better,' said I, for me to meet the danger alone, than that any of our people should experience the least injury.' When the greater number of

6

2

1 υπακούειν or υπηχεϊν. The technical term for uttering the responses in the church.

2 Athanasius was seated in his archiepiscopal chair at the altar among his clergy, but elevated above the rest. Hence the word ανελθόντες in

this passage.

« PreviousContinue »