« PreviousContinue »
teach us what we are to believe concerning the Divine nature. Let then all contentious disputation be set aside; and let us seek in the divinely inspired word the solution of all doubtful topics." These and similar exhortations he, like an affectionate son, addressed to the bishops as to fathers, desiring their accordance in the apostolical doctrines. Most of those present were won over by his arguments, established concord among themselves, and embraced sound doctrine. There were, however, a few, of whom mention has been already made, who opposed these doctrines, and sided with Arius ; and amongst them were Menophantus, bishop of Ephesus, Patrophilus, bishop of Scythopolitanus, Theognis, bishop of Nice, and Narcissus, bishop of Neroniadis, which is a town of the second Cilicia, and is now called Irenopolis; also Theonas, bishop of Marmarica, and Secundus, bishop of Ptolemais in Egypt. They drew up a declaration of their creed, and presented it to the council. Instead of being recognised, it was torn to pieces, and was declared to be spurious and false. So great was the uproar raised against them, and so many were the reproaches cast on them for having betrayed religion, that they all, with the exception of Secundus and Theonas, stood up and excommunicated Arius. This impious man, having thus been expelled from the church, a confession of faith which is received to this day was drawn up by unanimous consent: and as soon as it was signed, the council was dissolved. The bishops above-mentioned, however, did not consent to it in sincerity, but only in appearance. This was evidenced afterwards by their plotting against those who were foremost in zeal for religion, as well as by what these latter have written about them. Eustathius, bishop of Antioch, who has been already mentioned, when explaining a portion of the Proverbs, "God created me in the beginning of his ways, before his works," wrote against them, and refuted their blasphemy.
CHAP. VIII.-CONFUTATION OF ARIANISM DEDUCED FROM THE WRITINGS OF EUSTATHIUS AND ATHANASIUS.
I NOw proceed to relate how these different events occurred. A general council was summoned at Nice, and upwards of two hundred and seventy bishops were convened. There [THEODORET.]
were, however, so many assembled that I cannot state their exact number, neither, indeed, did I make any endeavour to ascertain this point. When they began to inquire into the nature of the faith, the formulary' of Eusebius was brought forward, which contained undisguised evidence of his blasphemy. The reading of it occasioned great grief to the audience, on account of the depravity of the doctrines; and the writer was covered with shame. After the guilt of the partisans of Eusebius had been clearly proved, and the impious writing torn up in the sight of all, some amongst them, under the pretence of preserving peace, imposed silence on those who usually manifested superior powers of eloquence. Arians, fearing lest they should be ejected from the church by so numerous a council of bishops, proceeded at once to condemn the doctrines objected to, and unanimously signed the confession of faith. They contrived, however, to retain their principal dignities, although they ought rather to have experienced humiliation. Sometimes secretly, and sometimes openly, they continued to vindicate the condemned doctrines, and brought forth various arguments in proof of them. Wholly bent upon establishing these false opinions, they shrunk from the scrutiny of learned men, and, indeed, of all who are capable of investigation; and they manifested great animosity against professors of religion: but we do not believe that these atheists can overcome God. Whatever may be their efforts, they must ultimately fail in their purpose, according to the solemn prophecy of Isaiah.
These things were written by the great Eustathius. Athanasius, who was equally zealous in the course of religion, and who was the successor in the ministry of the celebrated Alexander, communicated the following intelligence in the letter addressed to the Africans.
The bishops being convened to the council, were desirous of refuting the impious assertions of the Arians, that the Son was created out of nothing, ('E¿ oùк övτwv,) that he is a creature and created being, (Kríoμa kaì woíŋμa,) that there was a 1 That, namely, which Eusebius Pamphilus confesses that he put forth in his letter to the people of Cæsarea.
2 Literally, "lest they should be ostracised," μn ooтρakιOOεTεv.
3 Namely, their bishoprics, which they were enabled to hold in spite of the orthodox party, by reason of the favour with which they were regarded by the emperor and the court.
period in which he did not exist, (Ποτὲ ὅτε οὐκ ἦν,) and that he is mutable by nature. They all agreed in propounding the following declarations, which are in accordance with the Holy Scriptures: namely, that the Son is by nature the only begotten Son of God, the Word, the Power, and the Wisdom of the Father; that he is, as John said, " 'very God," and, as Paul has written, "the brightness of the glory, and the express image of the person of the Father" (Heb. i. 3). The followers of Eusebius, who were led astray by evil doctrines, then assembled for deliberation, and came to the following conclusions:
"We are also of God. There is but one God, of whom are all things (1 Cor. vi. 8); old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new, and all things are of God" (2 Cor. v. 17, 18). They also dwelt particularly upon the following doctrine contained in the Book of the Pastor: "Believe above all that there is one God, who created and restored all things, calling them from nothing into being." But the bishops saw through their evil design and impious artifice, and gave a clearer elucidation of these words, by explaining them as referring to God, and wrote that the Son of God is of the substance of God; so that while the creatures which do not in any way derive their existence of or from themselves, are said to be of God: the Son alone is said to be of the substance of the Father; this being peculiar to the only begotten Son, the true Word of the Father. This is the reason why the bishops were led to write, that he is of the substance of the Father. The Arians, who seemed few in number, were again interrogated as to whether they would admit the following points of doctrine: "that the Son is not a creature, but the Power, and the Wisdom, and likewise the Image of the Father; that he is eternal, in no respects differing from the Father, and that he is very God." It was remarked, that the Eusebians signified to each other by signs, that these declarations were equally applicable to us; for it is said, that we are the image and the glory of God; this is said of us because we are living beings: there are (to pursue their train of argument) many powers; for it is written-" All the powers of God went out of the land of Egypt" (Exod. xii. 41). The canker-worm and the locust are said to be great powers (Joel ii. 25). And elsewhere it is written, "The God of powers
is with us, the God of Jacob is our helper :" for we are not merely children of God, but the Son also calls us brethren. Their saying that Christ is God in truth, gives us no uneasiness: for he was true, and he is true. The Arians made false deductions; but the bishops, having detected their deceitfulness in this matter, collected from Scripture those passages which say of Christ that He is the glory, the fountain, the stream, and the figure of the substance; and they quoted the following words: "In thy light we shall see light;" and likewise, "I and the Father are one. They then clearly and briefly confessed that the Father and the Son are of the same substance; for this, indeed, is the signification of the passages which have been mentioned. The complaint of the Arians, that these precise words are not to be found in Scripture, is a vain argument; and it may besides be objected to them, that their impious assertions are not taken from Scripture; for it is not written, that the Son was created, and that there was a period in which he did not exist and also, that they themselves complain of having been condemned for using expressions which, though certainly not scriptural, are yet, they say, consonant with religion. They drew words from the dunghill, and published them upon earth. The bishops, on the contrary, did not invent any expressions themselves; but, having received the testimony of the fathers, they wrote accordingly. Indeed, formerly, as far back as about one hundred and thirty years, the bishops of the great city of Rome, and of our city, disproved the assertion, that the Son is a creature, and that he is not of the substance of the Father. Eusebius, bishop of Cæsarea, is acquainted with these facts: he, at one time, favoured the Arian heresy; but he afterwards signed the confession of faith of the Council of Nice. He wrote to inform his diocesans, that the word "consubstantial" is found in certain ancient documents, and is used by illustrious bishops and learned writers as a term for expressing the Divinity of the Father and of the Son.
Some of the bishops, who had carefully concealed their obnoxious opinions, consented to coincide with the council when
1 Constantinople. He alludes to Dionysius, Bishop of Rome, and (in the opinion of Valesius) to Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, who had each formally condemned the Arian formulary.
2 See Socrates, Eccl. Hist. b. i. ch. 8.
they perceived that it was very strong in point of numbers; and thus did they draw upon themselves the condemnation of the prophet, "God the Creator of all cried unto them, This people honour me with their lips, but have removed their heart far from me" (Isa. xxix. 13). Theonas and Secundus, not choosing to dissimulate in the same way, were excommunicated by one consent as those who esteemed the Arian blasphemy above evangelical doctrines. The bishops then returned to the council, and drew up twenty laws to regulate the discipline of the church.
CHAP. IX.-FACTS RELATING TO MELITIUS THE EGYPTIAN, FROM WHOM ORIGINATED THE MELITIAN SCHISMS, WHICH REMAIN TO THIS DAY.-SYNODICAL EPISTLE RESPECTING HIM.
AFTER Melitius had been ordained bishop, which was not long before the Arian controversy, he was convicted of impiety by the most holy Peter, bishop and martyr of Alexandria, and was deposed by him. But he did not acquiesce in his deposition, but excited troubles and commotions in Thebes and in the countries round Egypt, and sought the chief power in Alexandria. A letter was written to the church of Alexandria, stating what had been decreed against these innovations. It was as follows:
"To the church of Alexandria which, by the grace of God, is great and holy, and to the beloved brethren in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, the bishops who have been convened to the great and holy council of Nice, send greeting in the Lord.
"The great and holy council of Nice having been convened by the grace of God, and by the appointment of the most religious emperor, Constantine, who summoned us from different provinces and cities, we judge it requisite to inform you by letter what we have debated and examined, decreed and established. In the first place, the impious perverseness of Arius was investigated before our most religious emperor, Constantine. His impiety was unanimously condemned, as well as the blasphemous sentiments which he had propounded for the purpose of dishonouring the Son of God, alleging that Melitius first propagated his heresy A. D. 306, and was deposed the same year.