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the people had left the church, and just as the rest were following, the monks and some of the clergy who had remained led me out. And I testify as before the Lord who led me and who protected me, that we passed through the midst of the soldiers, some of whom were stationed around the altar, and others were marching about the church. We thus went out unperceived, and fervently glorified God that we had not abandoned the people, but that after they had been sent away in safety, we were permitted to escape from the hands of those who sought our life.”
CHAP. XIV.- EVIL AND DARING DEEDS COMMITTED BY GEORGE
ATHANASIUS having thus escaped from the cruelty of his sanguinary adversaries, George, who was truly another wolf, was intrusted with the superintendence of the flock. He inflicted on the sheep cruelties more atrocious than would have been perpetrated by a wolf, a bear, or a leopard. He compelled young women who had vowed perpetual virginity, not only to disown the communion of Athanasius, but also to condemn the faith of the fathers. The agent in his cruelty was Sebastian the military chief. He ordered a fire to be kindled in the centre of the city, and placed the virgins, who were stripped entirely naked, close to it, commanding them to deny the faith. Although they formed a most sorrowful and pitiable spectacle for believers as well as for unbelievers, they considered that all these dishonours conferred the highest honour on them; and they joyfully received the blows inflicted on them on account of their faith. All these facts are more clearly narrated by their own pastor.
About the period of the year termed Quadragesima, George returned from Cappadocia, and greatly added to the evils which had been already perpetrated. After the Easter week virgins were cast into prison, bishops were bound and dragged away by the soldiers, the houses of widows and of orphans were pillaged, and the Christians were, during the darkness of night, seized and torn away from their dwellings. Seals were fixed on many houses. The brethren of the clergy became uneasy on their account. These cruelties were very atrocious,
94 ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF
[B. 11. C. 14. but still more so were those which were subsequently perpetrated. The week following the holy festival of Pentecost, the people who were keeping a fast assembled in the churchyard to pray that they might be delivered from all communion with George. This wicked man was informed of this circumstance, and he excited Sebastian, the military commander belonging to the Manichean sect, to attack the people; and, accordingly, on the Lord's day he rushed upon them with a large body of armed soldiers wielding naked swords, bows, and arrows. He found but a few Christians in the act of praying, for most of them had retired on account of the lateness of the hour. He committed such cruelties as might be expected from one who was acting under the direction of such employers. He ordered a large fire to be lighted, and the virgins to be brought close to it, and then commanded them to declare themselves of the Arian persuasion. When he perceived that they were invincible, he ordered them to be stripped naked, and to be beaten until they became scarcely recognisable. He then seized forty men, and inflicted on them a new species of torture. He ordered them to be scourged with branches of palm trees; and the thorns were driven so deeply into their flesh, that it was long before they could be extracted by the surgical operations which were afterwards resorted to; and those who were not able to bear the agony died under it. He banished all those who survived, and also the virgins, to the Greater Oasis. He refused to give up the bodies of those who had been killed to their relations for sepulture; his partisans concealed some of these corpses, and others they flung away without a tomb, in order to show that they were unconcerned in these cruel transactions, and ignorant of them. But they were deceived in this foolish expectation: for the friends of the slain, while they rejoiced at the faithfulness of the deceased, deeply lamented the loss of the corpses, and spread abroad a full account of the cruelty that had been perpetrated.
The following bishops were banished from Egypt and from Libya :- Ammon, Muïus, Caius, Philo, Hermes, Pliny, Psinosis, Nilammon, Agapius, Anagamphus, Mark, Draco, Adelphus, another Ammon, another Mark, and Athenodorus ; and also the presbyters, Hieras and Dioscorus. They were all driven into exile in so cruel a manner that many died on the
road, and others at the place of their banishment. The persecutors caused the death of more than thirty bishops. For, like Achab, they were actuated by no other zeal than that of banishing the truth, had it been possible.
Athanasius, in a letter addressed to the virgins who were treated with so much barbarity, uses the following words: “Let none of you be grieved on account of these impious heretics having prohibited the honours of sepulture from being rendered to you. The impiety of the Arians has reached such a height, that they block up the entrances, and sit like so many demons round the places of sepulture in order to prevent the dead from being interred." These and many other similar atrocities were perpetrated by George in Alexandria.
The holy Athanasius was well aware that there was no place which could be considered a place of safety for him ; for the emperor had promised a very large reward to whoever should bring him alive or dead into his presence.
CHAP. XV.-COUNCIL OF MEDIOLANUM (MILAN). AFTER the death of Constans, Magnentius assumed the chief authority over the Western empire ; and, to repress his usurpation, Constantius repaired to Europe. But this war, severe as it was, did not put an end to the war against the church. The Arians, who found it easy to persuade Constantius to take any step which they pleased, and who had accordingly induced him to attach himself to the errors of heresy, now persuaded him to convoke a council at Milan, a city of Italy, and to compel all the assembled bishops to sign the deposition enacted by the iniquitous judges at Tyre; and, as Athanasius had been expelled from the church, to draw up another confession of faith. The bishops repaired to the council on the receipt of the imperial letter. But they were far from acting according to the directions of the emperor. On the contrary, they told him that what he had commanded was unjust and impious ; for this act of courage they were expelled from the church, and banished to the farthest boundaries of the empire.
The admirable Athanasius thus mentions this circumstance in his defence :-“Who can narrate such atrocities as they
perpetrated ? A short time ago when the churches were in the enjoyment of peace, and just as the people were assembled for prayer, Liberius, bishop of Rome, Paulinus, bishop of the metropolis of Gaul, Dionysius, bishop of the metropolis of Italy, Lucifer, bishop of the metropolis of the Isle of Sardinia, and Eusebius, bishop of one of the cities of Italy, who were all exemplary bishops and preachers of the truth, were seized and driven into exile, for no other cause than because they could not coincide in the Arian heresy, nor sign the false accusation which had been framed against us. It is unnecessary that I should speak of the great Hosius, that aged and faithful confessor of the faith, for every one knows that he also has been sent into banishment. Of all the bishops he is the most illustrious. What council can be mentioned in which he did not preside, and convince all present by the power of his reasoning? What church does not still enjoy the glorious effects of his ministration ? Did any one ever go to him sorrowing, and not leave him rejoicing ? Who ever asked his aid, and did not obtain all that he desired ? Yet they had the boldness to attack this great man, simply because, from his knowledge of the impiety of their calumnies, he refused to affix his signature to their artful accusations against us.”
From the above narrative will be seen the violence of the Arians against these holy men. Athanasius also gives in the same book an account of the numerous plots formed by the chiefs of the Arian faction against other individuals :
“ Did any one,” said he, “ against whom they had once commenced a series of persecutions, ever escape from them without suffering severe injury? Whose life did they ever seek without eventually subjecting him to the most agonizing death, or else to the mutilation of all his limbs? The executions commanded by the judges are all attributable to these heretics; for the judges are but the agents of their will, and of their malice. Where is there a place which contains no vestiges of their atrocities? If any one ever differed from them in opinion, did they not invariably, like Jezebel, falsely accuse and oppress him ? Where is there a church which has not been plunged in sorrow by their subtlety ? Antioch has to mourn the loss of Eustathius, that faithful and orthodox bishop. Balana has to lament on account of Euphration ; Paltus and Antaradus on account of Cymatius and Carterius. Adrianople was called to deplore the loss of the well-beloved Eutropius, and of Lucius his successor, who was loaded with chains, and expired beneath their weight. Ancyra, Berea, and Gaza had to mourn the absence of Marcellus, Cyrus,' and Asclepas, who, after having suffered many insults from this deceitful sect, were driven into exile. Some of these heretics were sent in quest of Theodulus and Olympius, bishops of Thrace, as well as of me and of the presbytery of my diocese; and had they found us, we should no doubt have been put to death. But at the very time that they were planning our destruction we effected our escape, although they had sent letters to Donas, the proconsul, against Olympias, and to Philagrius against us.”
1 Treves and Milan are here meant, as they were at this time the inetropolitan cities of Gaul and Italy respectively.
Such were the crimes of this impious faction against the most holy Christians. Hosius was the bishop of Corduba, and was the most highly distinguished of all those who assembled at the council of Nice, he also obtained the first place among those convened at Sardica.
I intend to insert in this work an account of the admirable arguments addressed by the far-famed Liberius in defence of the truth to the emperor Constantius. They are recorded by some of the pious men of that period in order to stimulate others to the exercise of similar zeal in divine things. Liberius had succeeded Julius, the successor of Silvester, in the government of the church of Rome.
CHAP. XVI.-CONFERENCE BETWEEN LIBERIUS BISHOP OF
ROME, AND THE EMPEROR CONSTANTIUS. CONSTANTIUS. “ We have judged it right, as you are a Christian and the bishop of our city, to send for you in order to admonish you to abjure all connexion with the folly and wickedness of Athanasius. For it was in this light that his conduct was viewed by the whole world, when he was separated from the communion of the church by the synod.”
LIBERIUS.—“O emperor, ecclesiastical sentences ought to be enacted with justice: therefore, if it be pleasing to your
See Socrates, Eccl. Hist. b. i. ch. 24. He impeached Eustathius of Sabellianism, but was not free from suspicion of the same heresy himself.