Eusebius, surnamed Pamphilus, writing the History of the Church in ten books, closed it with that period of the emperor Constantine, when the persecution which Diocletian had begun against the Christians came to an end. Also in writing the life of Constantine, this same author has but slightly treated of matters regarding Arius, being more intent on the rhetorical finish of his composition and the praises of the emperor, than on an accurate statement of facts. Now, as we propose to write the details of what has taken place in the churches since his time to our own day, we begin with the narration of the particulars which he has left out, and we shall not be solicitous to display a parade of words, but to lay before the reader what we have been able to collect from documents, and what we have heard from those who were familiar with the facts as they told them. And since it has an important bearing on the matter in hand, it will be proper to enter into a brief account of Constantine's conversion to Christianity, making a beginning with this event.
When Diocletian and Maximian, surnamed Herculius, had by mutual consent laid aside the imperial dignity, and retired into private life, Maximian, surnamed Galerius, who had been a sharer with them in the government, came into Italy and appointed two Cæsars, Maximin in the eastern division of the empire, and Severus in the Italian. In Britain, however, Constantine was proclaimed emperor, instead of his father Constantius, who died in the first year of the two hundred and seventy-first Olympiad, on the 25th of July. And at Rome Maxentius, the son of Maximian Herculius, was raised by the prætorian soldiers to be a tyrant rather than an emperor. In this state of things Herculius, impelled by a desire to regain the sovereignty, attempted to destroy his son Maxentius; but this he was prevented by the soldiery from effecting, and he soon afterwards died at Tarsus in Cilicia. At the same time Severus Cæsar being sent to Rome by Galerius Maximian, in order to seize Maxentius, was slain, his own soldiers having betrayed him. At length Galerius Maximian, who had exercised the chief authority, also died, having previously appointed as his successor, his old friend and companion in arms, Licinius, a Dacian by birth. Meanwhile, Maxentius sorely oppressed the Roman people, treating them as a tyrant rather than as a king, shamelessly violating the wives of the nobles, putting many innocent persons to death, and perpetrating other similar atrocities. The emperor Constantine being informed of this, exerted himself to free the Romans from the slavery under him (i.e. Maxentius), and began immediately to consider by what means he might overthrow the tyrant. Now while his mind was occupied with this great subject, he debated as to what divinity's aid he should invoke in the conduct of the war. He began to realize that Diocletian's party had not profited at all by the pagan deities, whom they had sought to propitiate; but that his own father Constantius, who had renounced the various religions of the Greeks, had passed through life far more prosperously. In this state of uncertainty, as he was marching at the head of his troops, a preternatural vision, which transcends all description, appeared to him. In fact, about that part of the day when the sun after posing the meridian begins to decline towards the west, he saw a pillar of light in the heavens, in the form of a cross, on which were inscribed these words, By This Conquer . The appearance of this sign struck the emperor with amazement and scarcely believing his own eyes, he asked those around him if they beheld the same spectacle; and as they unanimously declared that they did, the emperor's mind was strengthened by this divine and marvelous apparition. On the following night in his slumbers he saw Christ who directed him to prepare a standard according to the pattern of that which had been seen; and to use it against his enemies as an assured trophy of victory. In obedience to this divine oracle, he caused a standard in the form of a cross to be prepared, which is preserved in the palace even to the present time: and proceeding in his measures with greater earnestness, he attacked the enemy and vanquished him before the gates of Rome, near the Mulvian bridge, Maxentius himself being drowned in the river. This victory was achieved in the seventh year of the conqueror's reign. After this, while Licinius, who shared the government with him, and was his brother-in-law, having married his sister Constantia, was residing in the East, the emperor Constantine, in view of the great blessing he had received, offered grateful thanksgivings to God as his benefactor; these consisted in his relieving the Christians from persecution, recalling those who were in exile, liberating such as were imprisoned, and causing the confiscated property of the prescribed to be restored to them; he moreover rebuilt the churches, and performed all these things with the greatest ardor. About this time Diocletian, who had abdicated the imperial authority, died at Salona in Dalmatia.
Now Constantine, the emperor, having thus embraced Christianity, conducted himself as a Christian of his profession, rebuilding the churches, and enriching them with splendid offerings: he also either closed or destroyed the temples of the pagans, and exposed the images which were in them to popular contempt. But his colleague Licinius, holding his pagan tenets, hated Christians; and although from fear of the emperor Constantine he avoided exciting open persecution, yet he managed to plot against them covertly, and at length proceeded to harass them without disguise. This persecution, however, was local, extending only to those districts where Licinius himself was: but as these and other public outrages did not long remain concealed from Constantine, finding out that the latter was indignant at his conduct, Licinius had recourse to an apology. Having thus propitiated him, he entered into a feigned league of friendship, pledging himself by many oaths not to act again tyrannically. But no sooner did he pledge himself than he committed perjury; for he neither changed his tyrannical mood nor ceased persecuting Christians. Indeed, he even prohibited the bishops by law from visiting the uncoverted pagans, lest it should be made a pretext for proselyting them to the Christian faith. And the persecution was thus at the same time well known and secret. It was conceded in name but manifest in fact; for those who were exposed to his persecution suffered most severely both in their persons and property.
By this course he drew upon himself the emperor Constantine's heaviest displeasure; and they became enemies, the pretended treaty of friendship between them having been violated. Not long afterwards they took up arms against each other as declared enemies. And after several engagements both by sea and land, Licinius was at last utterly defeated near Chrysopolis in Bithynia, a port of the Chalcedonians, and surrendered himself to Constantine. Accordingly he having taken him alive, treated him with the utmost humanity, and would by no means put him to death, but ordered him to take up his abode and live in tranquillity at Thessalonica. He having, however, remained quiet a short time, managed afterwards to collect some barbarian mercenaries and made an effort to repair his late disaster by a fresh appeal to arms. The emperor being made acquainted with his proceedings, directed that he should be slain, which was carried into effect. Constantine thus became possessed of the sole dominion, and was accordingly proclaimed sovereign Autocrat, and again sought to promote the welfare of Christians. This he did in a variety of ways, and Christianity enjoyed unbroken peace by reason of his efforts. But an internal dissension soon succeeded this state of repose, the nature and origin of which I shall now endeavor to describe.
After Peter, bishop of Alexandria, had suffered martyrdom under Diocletian, Achillas was installed in the episcopal office, whom Alexander succeeded, during the period of peace above referred to. He, in the fearless exercise of his functions for the instruction and government of the Church, attempted one day in the presence of the presbytery and the rest of his clergy, to explain, with perhaps too philosophical minuteness, that great theological mystery— the Unity of the Holy Trinity. A certain one of the presbyters under his jurisdiction, whose name was Arius, possessed of no inconsiderable logical acumen, imaging that the bishop was subtly teaching the same view of this subject as Sabellius the Libyan, from love of controversy took the opposite opinion to that of the Libyan, and as he thought vigorously responded to what was said by the bishop. 'If,' said he, 'the Father begot the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence: and from this it is evident, that there was a time when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily follows, that he had his substance from nothing.'
Having drawn this inference from his novel train of reasoning, he excited many to a consideration of the question; and thus from a little spark a large fire was kindled: for the evil which began in the Church at Alexandria, ran throughout all Egypt, Libya, and the upper Thebes, and at length diffused itself over the rest of the provinces and cities. Many others also adopted the opinion of Arius; but Eusebius in particular was a zealous defender of it: not he of Cæsarea, but the one who had before been bishop of the church at Berytus, and was then somehow in possession of the bishopric of Nicomedia in Bithynia. When Alexander became conscious of these things, both from his own observation and from report, being exasperated to the highest degree, he convened a council of many prelates; and excommunicated Arius and the abettors of his heresy; at the same time he wrote as follows to the bishops constituted in the several cities:—
The Epistle of Alexander Bishop of Alexandria.
Inasmuch as the Catholic Church is one body, and we are commanded in the holy Scriptures to maintain 'the bond of unity and peace,' Ephesians 4:3 it becomes us to write, and mutually acquaint one another with the condition of things among each of us, in order that 'if one member suffers or rejoices, we may either sympathize with each other, or rejoice together.' 1 Corinthians 12:26 Know therefore that there have recently arisen in our diocese lawless and anti-christian men, teaching apostasy such as one may justly consider and denominate the forerunner of Antichrist. I wished indeed to consign this disorder to silence, that if possible the evil might be confined to the apostates alone, and not go forth into other districts and contaminate the ears of some of the simple. But since Eusebius, now in Nicomedia, thinks that the affairs of the Church are under his control because, forsooth, he deserted his charge at Berytus and assumed authority over the Church at Nicomedia with impunity, and has put himself at the head of these apostates, daring even to send commendatory letters in all directions concerning them, if by any means he might inveigle some of the ignorant into this most impious and anti-christian heresy, I felt imperatively called on to be silent no longer, knowing what is written in the law, but to inform you of all of these things, that you might understand both who the apostates are, and also the contemptible character of their heresy, and pay no attention to anything that Eusebius should write to you. For now wishing to renew his former malevolence, which seemed to have been buried in oblivion by time, he affects to write in their behalf; while the fact itself plainly shows that he does this for the promotion of his own purposes. These then are those who have become apostates: Arius, Achillas, Aithales, and Carpones, another Arius, Sarmates, Euzoïus, Lucius, Julian, Menas, Helladis, and Gaius; with these also must be reckoned Secundus and Theonas, who once were called bishops. The dogmas they have invented and assert, contrary to the Scriptures, are these: That God was not always the Father, but that there was a period when he was not the Father; that the Word of God was not from eternity, but was made out of nothing; for that the ever-existing God ('the I AM'— the eternal One) made him who did not previously exist, out of nothing; wherefore there was a time when he did not exist, inasmuch as the Son is a creature and a work. That he is neither like the Father as it regards his essence, nor is by nature either the Father's true Word, or true Wisdom, but indeed one of his works and creatures, being erroneously called Word and Wisdom, since he was himself made of God's own Word and the Wisdom which is in God, whereby God both made all things and him also. Wherefore he is as to his nature mutable and susceptible of change, as all other rational creatures are: hence the Word is alien to and other than the essence of God; and the Father is inexplicable by the Son, and invisible to him, for neither does the Word perfectly and accurately know the Father, neither can he distinctly see him. The Son knows not the nature of his own essence: for he was made on our account, in order that God might create us by him, as by an instrument; nor would he ever have existed, unless God had wished to create us.
Some one accordingly asked them whether the Word of God could be changed, as the devil has been? And they feared not to say, 'Yes, he could; for being begotten, he is susceptible of change.' We then, with the bishops of Egypt and Libya, being assembled together to the number of nearly a hundred, have anathematized Arius for his shameless avowal of these heresies, together with all such as have countenanced them. Yet the partisans of Eusebius have received them; endeavoring to blend falsehood with truth, and that which is impious with what is sacred. But they shall not prevail, for the truth must triumph; and 'light has no fellowship with darkness, nor has Christ any concord with Belial.' 2 Corinthians 6:14 Who ever heard such blasphemies? Or what man of any piety is there now hearing them that is not horror-struck, and stops his ears, lest the filth of these expressions should pollute his sense of hearing? Who that hears John saying, 'In the beginning was the Word,' does not condemn those that say, 'There was a period when the Word was not'? Or who, hearing in the Gospel of 'the only-begotten Son,' and that 'all things were made by him,' will not abhor those that pronounce the Son to be one of the things made? How can he be one of the things which were made by himself? Or how can he be the only-begotten, if he is reckoned among created things? And how could he have had his existence from nonentities, since the Father has said, 'My heart has indited a good matter'; and 'I begot you out of my bosom before the dawn'? Or how is he unlike the Father's essence, who is 'his perfect image,' Colossians 1:15 and 'the brightness of his glory' Hebrews 1:3 and says: 'He that has seen me, has seen the Father?'? Again how if the Son is the Word and Wisdom of God, was there a period when he did not exist? For that is equivalent to their saying that God was once destitute both of Word and Wisdom. How can he be mutable and susceptible of change, who says of himself, 'I am in the Father, and the Father in me'; John 14:10 and 'I and the Father are one'; John 10:30 and again by the Prophet, Malachi 3:6 'Behold me because I am, and have not changed'? But if any one may also apply the expression to the Father himself, yet would it now be even more fitly said of the Word; because he was not changed by having become man, but as the Apostle says, Hebrews 13:8 'Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.' But what could persuade them to say that he was made on our account, when Paul has expressly declared Hebrews 2:10 that 'all things are for him, and by him'? One need not wonder indeed at their blasphemous assertion that the Son does not perfectly know the Father; for having once determined to fight against Christ, they reject even the words of the Lord himself, when he says, John 10:15 'As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father.' If therefore the Father but partially knows the Son, it is manifest that the Son also knows the Father but in part. But if it would be improper to affirm this, and it be admitted that the Father perfectly knows the Son, it is evident that as the Father knows his own Word, so also does the Word know his own Father, whose Word he is. And we, by stating these things, and unfolding the divine Scriptures, have often confuted them: but again as chameleons they were changed, striving to apply to themselves that which is written, 'When the ungodly has reached the depths of iniquity, he becomes contemptuous.' Many heresies have arisen before these, which exceeding all bounds in daring, have lapsed into complete infatuation: but these persons, by attempting in all their discourses to subvert the Divinity of The Word, as having made a nearer approach to Antichrist, have comparatively lessened the odium of former ones. Wherefore they have been publicly repudiated by the Church, and anathematized. We are indeed grieved on account of the perdition of these persons, and especially so because, after having been previously instructed in the doctrines of the Church, they have now apostatized from them. Nevertheless we are not greatly surprised at this, for Hymenæus and Philetus 2 Timothy 2:17-18 fell in like manner; and before them Judas, who had been a follower of the Saviour, but afterwards deserted him and became his betrayer. Nor were we without forewarning respecting these very persons: for the Lord himself said: 'Take heed that no man deceive you: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ: and shall many deceive many'; Matthew 24:4 and 'the time is at hand; Go ye not therefore after them.' Luke 21:8 And Paul, having learned these things from the Saviour, wrote, 'That in the latter times some should apostatize from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits, and doctrines of devils,' who pervert the truth. Seeing then that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has himself enjoined this, and has also by the apostle given us intimation respecting such men, we having ourselves heard their impiety have in consequence anathematized them, as we before said, and declared them to be alienated from the Catholic Church and faith. Moreover we have intimated this to your piety, beloved and most honored fellow-ministers, in order that you might neither receive any of them, if they should presume to come to you, nor be induced to put confidence in Eusebius, or any other who may write to you about them. For it is incumbent on us who are Christians, to turn away from all those who speak or entertain a thought against Christ, as from those who are resisting God, and are destroyers of the souls of men: neither does it become us even 'to salute such men,' as the blessed John has prohibited, 'lest we should at any time be made partakers of their sins.' Greet the brethren which are with you; those who are with me salute you.
Upon Alexander's thus addressing the bishops in every city, the evil only became worse, inasmuch as those to whom he made this communication were thereby excited to contention. And some indeed fully concurred in and subscribed to the sentiments expressed in this letter, while others did the reverse. But Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, was beyond all others moved to controversy, inasmuch as Alexander in his letter had made a personal and censorious allusion to him. Now at this juncture Eusebius possessed great influence, because the emperor resided at Nicomedia. For in fact Diocletian had a short time previously built a palace there. On this account therefore many of the bishops paid their court to Eusebius. And he repeatedly wrote both to Alexander, that he might set aside the discussion which had been excited, and again receive Arius and his adherents into communion; and also to the bishops in each city, that they might not concur in the proceedings of Alexander. By these means confusion everywhere prevailed: for one saw not only the prelates of the churches engaged in disputing, but the people also divided, some siding with one party, and some with the other. To so disgraceful an extent was this affair carried, that Christianity became a subject of popular ridicule, even in the very theatres. Those who were at Alexandria sharply disputed about the highest points of doctrine, and sent deputations to the bishops of the several dioceses; while those who were of the opposite faction created a similar disturbance.
By Peter, bishop of Alexandria, who in the reign of Diocletian suffered martyrdom, a certain Melitius, bishop of one of the cities in Egypt, in consequence of many other charges, and more especially because during the persecution he had denied the faith and sacrificed, was deposed. This person, being stripped of his dignity, and having nevertheless many followers, became the leader of the heresy of those who are to this day called from him Melitians throughout Egypt. And as he had no rational excuse for his separation from the Church, he pretended that he had simply been wronged and loaded Peter with calumnious reproaches. Now Peter died the death of a martyr during the persecution, and so Melitius transferred his abuse first to Achillas, who succeeded Peter in the bishopric, and afterwards again to Alexan der, the successor of Achillas. In this state of things among them, the discussion in relation to Arius arose; and Melitius with his adherents took part with Arius, entering into a conspiracy with him against the bishop. But as many as regarded the opinion of Arius as untenable, justified Alexander's decision against him, and thought that those who favored his views were justly condemned. Meanwhile Eusebius of Nicomedia and his partisans, with such as favored the sentiments of Arius, demanded by letter that the sentence of excommunication which had been pronounced against him should be rescinded; and that those who had been excluded should be readmitted into the Church, as they held no unsound doctrine. Thus letters from the opposite parties were sent to the bishop of Alexandria; and Arius made a collection of those which were favorable to himself while Alexander did the same with those which were adverse. This therefore afforded a plausible opportunity of defense to the sects, which are now prevalent, of the Arians, Eunomians, and such as receive their name from Macedonius; for these severally make use of these epistles in vindication of their heresies.
When the emperor was made acquainted with these disorders, he was very deeply grieved; and regarding the matter as a personal misfortune, immediately exerted himself to extinguish the conflagration which had been kindled, and sent a letter to Alexander and Arius by a trustworthy person named Hosius, who was bishop of Cordova, in Spain. The emperor greatly loved this man and held him in the highest estimation. It will not be out of place to introduce here a portion of this letter, the whole of which is given in the life of Constantine by Eusebius.
Victor Constantine Maximum Augustus to Alexander and Arius.
I am informed that your present controversy originated thus. When you, Alexander, inquired of your presbyters what each thought on a certain inexplicable passage of the written Word, rather on a subject improper for discussion; and you, Arius, rashly gave expression to a view of the matter such as ought either never to have been conceived, or when suggested to your mind, it became you to bury it in silence. This dispute having thus been excited among you, communion has been denied; and the most holy people being rent into two factions, have departed from the harmony of the common body. Wherefore let each one of you, showing consideration for the other, listen to the impartial exhortation of your fellow-servant. And what counsel does he offer? It was neither prudent at first to agitate such a question, nor to reply to such a question when proposed: for the claim of no law demands the investigation of such subjects, but the idle useless talk of leisure occasions them. And even if they should exist for the sake of exercising our natural faculties, yet we ought to confine them to our own consideration, and not incautiously bring them forth in public assemblies, nor thoughtlessly confide them to the ears of everybody. Indeed how few are capable either of adequately expounding, or even accurately understanding the import of matters so vast and profound!
And even if any one should be considered able to satisfactorily accomplish this, how large a portion of the people would he succeed in convincing? Or who can grapple with the subtlies of such investigations without danger of lapsing into error? It becomes us therefore on such topics to check loquacity, lest either on account of the weakness of our nature we should be incompetent to explain the subject proposed; or the dull understanding of the audience should make them unable to apprehend clearly what is attempted to be taught: and in the case of one or the other of these failures, the people must be necessarily involved either in blasphemy or schism. Wherefore let an unguarded question, and an inconsiderate answer, on the part of each of you, procure equal forgiveness from one another. No cause of difference has been started by you bearing on any important precept contained in the Law; nor has any new heresy been introduced by you in connection with the worship of God; but you both hold one and the same judgment on these points, which is the Creed. Moreover, while you thus pertinaciously contend with one another about matters of small or scarcely the least importance, it is unsuitable for you to have charge of so many people of God, because you are divided in opinion: and not only is it unbe coming, but it is also believed to be altogether unlawful.
In order to remind you of your duty by an example of an inferior kind, I may say: you are well aware that even the philosophers themselves are united under one sect. Yet they often differ from each other on some parts of their theories: but although they may differ on the very highest branches of science, in order to maintain the unity of their body, they still agree to coalesce. Now, if this is done among them, how much more equitable will it be for you, who have been constituted ministers of the Most High God, to become unanimous with one another in such a religious profession. But let us examine with closer consideration, and deeper attention, what has been already stated. Is it right on account of insignificant and vain contentions between you about words, that brethren should be set in opposition against brethren; and that the honorable communion should be distracted by unhallowed dissension, through our striving with one another respecting things so unimportant, and by no means essential? These quarrels are vulgar and rather consistent with puerile thoughtlessness, than suitable to the intelligence of priests and prudent men. We should spontaneously turn aside from the temptations of the devil. The great God and Saviour of us all has extended to all the common light. Under his providence, allow me, his servant, to bring this effort of mine to a successful issue; that by my exhortation, ministry, and earnest admonition, I may lead you, his people, back to unity of communion. For since, as I have said, there is but one faith among you, and one sentiment respecting religion, and since the precept of the law, in all its parts, combines all in one purpose of soul, let not this diversity of opinion, which has excited dissension among you, by any means cause discord and schism, inasmuch as it does not affect the force of the law as a whole. Now, I say these things, not as compelling you all to see exactly alike on this very insignificant subject of controversy, whatever it may be; since the dignity of the communion may be preserved unaffected, and the same fellowship with all be retained, even though there should exist among you some dissimilarity of sentiment on unimportant matters. For, of course, we do not all desire the same thing in every respect; nor is there one unvarying nature, or standard of judgment in us. Therefore, in regard to divine providence, let there be one faith, one sentiment, and one covenant of the Godhead: but those minute investigations which you enter into among yourselves with so much nicety, even if you should not concur in one judgment in regard to them, should remain within the sphere of your own reflection, kept in the secret recesses of the mind. Let then an ineffable and select bond of general friendship, with faith in the truth, reverence for God, and a devout observance of his law, remain unshaken among you. Resume mutual friendship and grace; restore to the whole people their accustomed familiar embraces; and do ye yourselves, on the strength of having purified your own souls, again recognize one another. For friendship often becomes sweeter after the removal of animosity. Thus restore to me tranquil days, and nights free from care; that to me also some pleasure in the pure light may be preserved, and a cheerful serenity during the rest of my life: otherwise, I must necessarily groan, and be wholly suffused with tears; neither will the remaining period of my earthly existence be peacefully sustained. For while the people of God (I speak of my fellow-servants) are severed from one another by so unworthy and injurious a contest, how is it possible for me to maintain my usual equanimity? But in order that you may have some idea of my excessive grief on account of this unhappy difference, listen to what I am about to state. On my recent arrival at the city of Nicomedia, it was my intention immediately after to proceed into the East: but while I was hastening toward you, and had advanced a considerable distance on my way, intelligence of this affair altogether reversed my purpose, lest I should be obliged to see with my own eyes a condition of things such as I could scarcely bear the report of. Open to me therefore by your reconciliation henceforth, the way into the East, which you have obstructed by your contentions against one another: and permit me speedily to behold both you and all the rest of the people rejoicing together; and to express my due thanks to the Divine Being, because of the general harmony and liberty of all parties, accompanied by the cordial utterance of your praise.
Such admirable and wise counsel did the emperor's letter contain. But the evil had become too strong both for the exhortations of the emperor, and the authority of him who was the bearer of his letter: for neither was Alexander nor Arius softened by this appeal; and moreover there was incessant strife and tumult among the people. Moreover another local source of disquietude had pre-existed there, which served to trouble the churches—the dispute namely in regard to the Passover, which was carried on in the regions of the East only. This arose from some desiring to keep the Feast more in accordance with the custom of the Jews; while others preferred its mode of celebration by Christians in general throughout the world. This difference, however, did not interfere with their communion, although their mutual joy was necessarily hindered. When, therefore, the emperor beheld the Church agitated on account of both of these causes, he convoked a General Council, summoning all the bishops by letter to meet him at Nicæa in Bithynia. Accordingly the bishops assembled out of the various provinces and cities; respecting whom Eusebius Pamphilus thus writes, word for word, in his third book of the life of Constantine:
'Wherefore the most eminent of the ministers of God in all the churches which have filled Europe, Africa, and Asia, were convened. And one sacred edifice, dilated as it were by God, contained within it on the same occasion both Syrians and Cilicians, Phœnicians, Arabs and Palestinians, and in addition to these, Egyptians, Thebans, Libyans, and those who came from Mesopotamia. At this synod a Persian bishop was also present, neither was the Scythian absent from this assemblage. Pontus also and Galatia, Pamphylia, Cappadocia, Asia and Phrygia, supplied those who were most distinguished among them. Besides, there met there Thracians and Macedonians, Achaians and Epirots, and even those who dwelt still further away than these, and the most celebrated of the Spaniards himself took his seat among the rest. The prelate of the imperial city was absent on account of age; but some of his presbyters were present and filled his place. Such a crown, composed as a bond of peace, the emperor Constantine alone has ever dedicated to Christ his Saviour, as a thank-offering worthy of God for victory over his enemies, having appointed this convocation among us in imitation of the Apostolic Assembly. Acts 2:5-11 For among them it is said were convened
devout men of every nation under heaven; Parthians, Medes and Elamites, and those who dwelt in Mesopotamia, Judæa and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the part of Libya which is toward Cyrene, strangers from Rome also, both Jews and proselytes with Cretans and Arabs. That congregation, however, was inferior in this respect, that all present were not ministers of God: whereas in this assembly the number of bishops exceeded three hundred; while the number of the presbyters, deacons, and acolyths and others who attended them was almost incalculable. Some of these ministers of God were eminent for their wisdom, some for the strictness of their life, and patient endurance [of persecution], and others united in themselves all these distinguished characteristics: some were venerable from their advanced age, others were conspicuous for their youth and vigor of mind, and others had but recently entered on their ministerial career. For all these the emperor appointed an abundant supply of daily food to be provided.'
Such is Eusebius' account of those who met on this occasion. The emperor having completed the festal solemnization of this triumph over Licinius, came also in person to Nice.
There were among the bishops two of extraordinary celebrity, Paphnutius, bishop of Upper Thebes, and Spyridon, bishop of Cyprus: why I have so particular referred to these two individuals, I shall state hereafter. Many of the laity were also present, who were practiced in the art of reasoning, and each eager to advocate the cause of his own party. Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, as was before said, sup ported the opinion of Arius, together with Theognis and Maris; of these the former was bishop of Nicæa, and Maris of Chalcedon in Bithynia. These were powerfully opposed by Athanasius, a deacon of the Alexandrian church, who was highly esteemed by Alexander his bishop, and on that account was much envied, as will be seen hereafter. Now a short time previous to the general assembling of the bishops, the disputants engaged in preparatory logical contests before the multitudes; and when many were attracted by the interest of their discourse, one of the laity, a confessor , who was a man of unsophisticated understanding, reproved these reasoners, telling them that Christ and his apostles did not teach us dialectics, art, nor vain subtlies, but simple-mindedness, which is preserved by faith and good works. As he said this, all present admired the speaker and assented to the justice of his remarks; and the disputants themselves, after hearing his plain statement of the truth, exercised a greater degree of moderation: thus then was the disturbance caused by these logical debates suppressed at this time.
On the following day all the bishops were assembled together in one place; the emperor arrived soon after and on his entrance stood in their midst, and would not take his place, until the bishops by bowing intimated their desire that he should be seated: such was the respect and reverence which the emperor entertained for these men. When a silence suitable to the occasion had been observed, the emperor from his seat began to address them words of exhortation to harmony and unity, and entreated each to lay aside all private pique. For several of them had brought accusations against one another and many had even presented petitions to the emperor the day before. But he, directing their attention to the matter before them, and on account of which they were assembled, ordered these petitions to be burnt; merely observing that 'Christ enjoins him who is anxious to obtain forgiveness, to forgive his brother.' When therefore he had strongly insisted on the maintenance of harmony and peace, he sanctioned again their purpose of more closely investigating the questions at issue. But it may be well to hear what Eusebius says on this subject, in his third book of the Life of Constantine. His words are these:
'A variety of topics having been introduced by each party and much controversy being excited from the very commencement, the emperor listened to all with patient attention, deliberately and impartially considering whatever was advanced. He in part supported the statements which were made on either side, and gradually softened the asperity of those who contentiously opposed each other, conciliating each by his mildness and affability. And as he addressed them in the Greek language, for he was not unacquainted with it, he was at once interesting and persuasive, and wrought conviction on the minds of some, and prevailed on others by entreaty, those who spoke well he applauded. And inciting all to unanimity at length he succeeded in bringing them into similarity of judgment, and conformity of opinion on all the controverted points: so that there was not only unity in the confession of faith, but also a general agreement as to the time for the celebration of the feast of Salvation. Moreover the doctrines which had thus the common consent, were confirmed by the signature of each individual.'
Such in his own words is the testimony respecting these things which Eusebius has left us in writing; and we not unfitly have used it, but treating what he has said as an authority, have introduced it here for the fidelity of this history. With this end also in view, that if any one should condemn as erroneous the faith professed at this council of Nicæa, we might be unaffected by it, and put no confidence in Sabinus the Macedonian, who calls all those who were convened there ignoramuses and simpletons. For this Sabinus, who was bishop of the Macedonians at Heraclea in Thrace, having made a collection of the decrees published by various Synods of bishops, has treated those who composed the Nicene Council in particular with contempt and derision; not perceiving that he thereby charges Eusebius himself with ignorance, who made a like confession after the closest scrutiny. And in fact some things he has willfully passed over, others he has perverted, and on all he has put a construction favorable to his own views. Yet he commends Eusebius Pamphilus as a trustworthy witness, and praises the emperor as capable in stating Christian doctrines: but he still brands the faith which was declared at Nicæa, as having been set forth by ignorant persons, and such as had no intelligence in the matter. And thus he voluntarily contemns the words of a man whom he himself pronounces a wise and true witness: for Eusebius declares, that of the ministers of God who were present at the Nicene Synod, some were eminent for the word of wisdom, others for the strictness of their life; and that the emperor himself being present, leading all into unanimity, established unity of judgment, and agreement of opinion among them. Of Sabinus, however, we shall make further mention as occasion may require. But the agreement of faith, assented to with loud acclamation at the great council of Nicæa is this:
'We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible:— and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father, that is of the substance of the Father; God of God and Light of light; true God of true God; begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father: by whom all things were made, both which are in heaven and on earth: who for the sake of us men, and on account of our salvation, descended, became incarnate, and was made man; suffered, arose again the third day, and ascended into the heavens, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. [We] also [believe] in the Holy Spirit. But the holy Catholic and Apostolic church anathematizes those who sayThere was a time when he was not,andHe was not before he was begottenandHe was made from that which did not exist,and those who assert that he is of other substance or essence than the Father, or that he was created, or is susceptible of change.'
This creed was recognized and acquiesced in by three hundred and eighteen [bishops]; and being, as Eusebius says, unanimous is expression and sentiment, they subscribed it. Five only would not receive it, objecting to the term homoousios, 'of the same essence,' or consubstantial: these were Eusebius bishop of Nicomedia, Theognis of Nice, Maris of Chalcedon, Theonas of Marmarica, and Secundus of Ptolemaïs. 'For,' said they 'since that is consubstantial which is from another either by partition, derivation or germination; by germination, as a shoot from the roots; by derivation, as children from their parents; by division, as two or three vessels of gold from a mass, and the Son is from the Father by none of these modes: therefore they declared themselves unable to assent to this creed.' Thus having scoffed at the word consubstantial, they would not subscribe to the deposition of Arius. Upon this the Synod anathematized Arius, and all who adhered to his opinions, prohibiting him at the same time from entering into Alexandria. At the same time an edict of the emperor sent Arius himself into exile, together with Eusebius and Theognis and their followers; Eusebius and Theognis, however, a short time after their banishment, tendered a written declaration of their change of sentiment, and concurrence in the faith of the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, as we shall show as we proceed.
At this time during the session of the Synod, Eusebius, surnamed Pamphilus, bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine, who had held aloof for a short time, after mature consideration whether he ought to receive this definition of the faith, at length acquiesced in it, and subscribed it with all the rest: he also sent to the people under his charge a copy of the Creed, with an explanation of the word homoousios, that no one might impugn his motives on account of his previous hesitation. Now what was written by Eusebius was as follows in his own words:
'You have probably had some intimation, beloved, of the transactions of the great council convened at Nicæa, in relation to the faith of the Church, inasmuch as rumor generally outruns true account of that which has really taken place. But lest from such report alone you might form an incorrect estimate of the matter, we have deemed it necessary to submit to you, in the first place, an exposition of the faith proposed by us in written form; and then a second which has been promulgated, consisting of ours with certain additions to its expression. The declaration of faith set forth by us, which when read in the presence of our most pious emperor, seemed to meet with universal approbation, was thus expressed:
'According as we received from the bishops who preceded us, both in our instruction [in the knowledge of the truth], and when we were baptized; as also we have ourselves learned from the sacred Scriptures: and in accordance with what we have both believed and taught while discharging the duties of presbyter and the episcopal office itself, so now we believe and present to you the distinct avowal of our faith. It is this:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible:— and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God of God, Light of light, Life of life, the only-begotten Son, born before all creation, begotten of God the Father, before all ages, by whom also all things were made; who on account of our salvation became incarnate, and lived among men; and who suffered and rose again on the third day, and ascended to the Father, and shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We believe also in one Holy Spirit. We believe in the existence and subsistence of each of these [persons]: that the Father is truly Father, the Son truly Son, and the Holy Spirit truly Holy Spirit; even as our Lord also, when he sent forth his disciples to preach the Gospel, said, 'Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' Concerning these doctrines we steadfastly maintain their truth, and avow our full confidence in them; such also have been our sentiments hitherto, and such we shall continue to hold until death and in an unshaken adherence to this faith, we anathematize every impious heresy. In the presence of God Almighty, and of our Lord Jesus Christ we testify, that thus we have believed and thought from our heart and soul, since we have possessed a right estimate of ourselves; and that we now think and speak what is perfectly in accordance with the truth. We are moreover prepared to prove to you by undeniable evidences, and to convince you that in time past we have thus believed, and so preached.
'When these articles of faith were proposed, there seemed to be no ground of opposition: nay, our most pious emperor himself was the first to admit that they were perfectly correct, and that he himself had entertained the sentiments contained in them; exhorting all present to give them their assent, and subscribe to these very articles, thus agreeing in a unanimous profession of them, with the insertion, however, of that single word
homoousios (consubstantial), an expression which the emperor himself explained, as not indicating corporeal affections or properties; and consequently that the Son did not subsist from the Father either by division or abscission: for said he, a nature which is immaterial and incorporeal cannot possibly be subject to any corporeal affection; hence our conception of such things can only be in divine and mysterious terms. Such was the philosophical view of the subject taken by our most wise and pious sovereign; and the bishops on account of the word homoousious, drew up this formula of faith.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible:— and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father, that is of the substance of the Father; God of God, Light of light, true God of true God; begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father; by whom all things were made both which are in heaven and on earth; who for the sake of us men, and on account of our salvation, descended, became incarnate, was made man, suffered and rose again on the third day; he ascended into the heavens, and will come to judge the living and the dead. [We believe] also in the Holy Spirit. But those who say 'There was a time when he was not,' or 'He did not exist before he was begotten,' or 'He was made of nothing' or assert that 'He is of other substance or essence than the Father,' or that the Son of God is created, or mutable, or susceptible of change, the Catholic and apostolic Church of God anathematizes.
'Now this declaration of faith being propounded by them, we did not neglect to investigate the distinct sense of the expressions
of the substance of the Father, and consubstantial with the Father. Whereupon questions were put forth and answers, and the meaning of these terms was clearly defined; when it was generally admitted that ousias (of the essence or substance) simply implied that the Son is of the Father indeed, but does not subsist as a part of the Father. To this interpretation of the sacred doctrine which declares that the Son is of the Father, but is not a part of his substance, it seemed right to us to assent. We ourselves therefore concurred in this exposition; nor do we cavil at the word
homoousios having regard to peace, and fearing to lose a right understanding of the matter. On the same grounds we admitted also the expression
begotten, not made:
for made, said they,
is a term applicable in common to all the creatures which were made by the Son, to whom the Son has no resemblance. Consequently he is no creature like those which were made by him, but is of a substance far excelling any creature; which substance the Divine Oracles teach was begotten of the Father by such a mode of generation as cannot be explained nor even conceived by any creature. Thus also the declaration that
the Son is consubstantial with the Father having been discussed, it was agreed that this must not be understood in a corporeal sense, or in any way analogous to mortal creatures; inasmuch as it is neither by division of substance, nor by abscission nor by any change of the Father's substance and power, since the underived nature of the Father is inconsistent with all these things. That he is consubstantial with the Father then simply implies, that the Son of God has no resemblance to created things, but is in every respect like the Father only who begot him; and that he is of no other substance or essence but of the Father. To which doctrine, explained in this way, it appeared right to assent, especially since we knew that some eminent bishops and learned writers among the ancients have used the term
homoousios in their theological discourses concerning the nature of the Father and the Son. Such is what I have to state to you in reference to the articles of faith which have been promulgated; and in which we have all concurred, not without due examination, but according to the senses assigned, which were investigated in the presence of our most highly favored emperor, and for the reasons mentioned approved. We have also considered the anathema pronounced by them after the declaration of faith inoffensive; because it prohibits the use of illegitimate terms, from which almost all the distraction and commotion of the churches have arisen. Accordingly, since no divinely inspired Scripture contains the expressions,
of things which do not exist, and
there was a time when he was not, and such other phrases as are therein subjoined, it seemed unwarrantable to utter and teach them: and moreover this decision received our sanction the rather from the consideration that we have never heretofore been accustomed to employ these terms. We deemed it incumbent on us, beloved, to acquaint you with the caution which has characterized both our examination of and concurrence in these things: and that on justifiable grounds we resisted to the last moment the introduction of certain objectionable expressions as long as these were not acceptable; and received them without dispute, when on mature deliberation as we examined the sense of the words, they appeared to agree with what we had originally proposed as a sound confession of faith.'
Such was the letter addressed by Eusebius Pamphilus to the Christians at Cæsarea in Palestine. At the same time the Synod itself also, with one accord, wrote the following epistle to the church of the Alexandrians, and to believers in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis.
To the holy, by the grace of God, and great church of the Alexandrians, and to our beloved brethren throughout Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, the bishops assembled at Nicæa, constituting the great and holy Synod, send greeting in the Lord.
Since, by the grace of God, a great and holy Synod has been convened at Nicæa, our most pious sovereign Constantine having summoned us out of various cities and provinces for that purpose, it appeared to us indispensably necessary that a letter should be written to you on the part of the sacred Synod; in order that you may know what subjects were brought under consideration and examined, and what was eventually determined on and decreed.
In the first place, then, the impiety and guilt of Arius and his adherents were examined into, in the presence of our most religious emperor Constantine: and it was unanimously decided that his impious opinion should be anathematized, with all the blasphemous expressions he has uttered, in affirming that 'the Son of God sprang from nothing,' and that 'there was a time when he was not'; saying moreover that 'the Son of God, because possessed of free will, was capable either of vice or virtue; and calling him a creature and a work. All these sentiments the holy Synod has anathematized, having scarcely patience to endure the hearing of such an impious opinion, or, rather, madness, and such blasphemous words. But the conclusion of our proceedings against him you must either have been informed of already or will soon learn; for we would not seem to trample on a man who has received the chastisement which his crime deserved. Yet so contagious has his pestilential error proved, as to drag into perdition Theonas, bishop of Marmarica, and Secundus of Ptolemaïs; for they have suffered the same condemnation as himself. But when the grace of God delivered us from those execrable dogmas, with all their impiety and blasphemy, and from those persons, who had dared to cause discord and division among a people previously at peace, there still remained the contumacy of Melitius [to be dealt with] and those who had been ordained by him; and we now state to you, beloved brethren, what resolution the Synod came to on this point. It was decreed, the Synod being moved to great clemency towards Melitius, although strictly speaking he was wholly undeserving of favor, that he remain in his own city but exercise no authority either to ordain or nominate for ordination; and that he appear in no other district or city on this pretense, but simply retain a nominal dignity. That those who had received appointments from him, after having been confirmed by a more legitimate ordination, should be admitted to communion on these conditions: that they should continue to hold their rank and ministry, but regard themselves as inferior in every respect to all those who have been ordained and established in each place and church by our most-honored fellow-minister, Alexander, so that they shall have no authority to propose or nominate whom they please, or to do anything at all without the concurrence of some bishop of the Catholic Church who is one of Alexander's suffragans. On the other hand, such as by the grace of God and your prayers have been found in no schism, but have continued in the Catholic Church blameless, shall have authority to nominate and ordain those who are worthy of the sacred office, and to act in all things according to ecclesiastical law and usage. When it may happen that any of those holding preferments in the church die, then let these who have been thus recently admitted be advanced to the dignity of the deceased, provided that they should appear worthy, and that the people should elect them, the bishop of Alexandria also ratifying their choice. This privilege is conceded to all the others indeed, but to Melitius personally we by no means grant the same license, on account of his former disorderly conduct, and because of the rashness and levity of his character, in order that no authority or jurisdiction should be given him as a man liable again to create similar disturbances. These are the things which specially affect Egypt, and the most holy church of the Alexandrians: and if any other canon or ordinance has been established, our Lord and most-honored fellow-minister and brother Alexander being present with us, will on his return to you enter into more minute details, inasmuch as he has been a participator in whatever is transacted, and has had the principal direction of it. We have also gratifying intelligence to communicate to you relative to unity of judgment on the subject of the most holy feast of Easter: for this point also has been happily settled through your prayers; so that all the brethren in the East who have heretofore kept this festival when the Jews did, will henceforth conform to the Romans and to us, and to all who from the earliest time have observed our period of celebrating Easter. Rejoicing therefore in these conclusions and in the general unanimity and peace, as well as in the extirpation of all heresy, receive with the greater honor and more abundant love our fellow-minister and your bishop Alexander, who has greatly delighted us by his presence, and even at his advanced age has undergone extraordinary exertions in order that peace might be re-established among you. Pray on behalf of us all, that the things decided as just may be inviolably maintained through Almighty God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, together with the Holy Spirit; to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
This epistle of the Synod makes it plain that they not only anathematized Arius and his adherents, but the very expressions of his tenets; and that having agreed among themselves respecting the celebration of Easter, they readmitted the heresiarch Melitius into communion, suffering him to retain his episcopal rank, but divesting him of all authority to act as a bishop. It is for this reason I suppose that even at the present time the Melitians in Egypt are separated from the church, because the Synod deprived Melitius of all power. It should be observed moreover that Arius had written a treatise on his own opinion which he entitled Thalia; but the character of the book is loose and dissolute, similar in its style and metres to the songs of Sotades. This production also the Synod condemned at the same time. Nor was it the Synod alone that took the trouble to write letters to the churches announcing the restoration of peace, but the emperor Constantine himself also wrote personally and sent the following address to the church of the Alexandrians.
The Emperor's Letter.
Constantine Augustus, to the Catholic church of the Alexandrians. Beloved brethren, hail! We have received from Divine Providence the inestimable blessing of being relieved from all error, and united in the acknowledgment of one and the same faith. The devil will no longer have any power against us, since all that which he had malignantly devised for our destruction has been entirely overthrown from the foundations. The splendor of truth has dissipated at the command of God those dissensions, schisms, tumults, and so to speak, deadly poisons of discord. Wherefore we all worship one true God, and believe that he is. But in order that this might be done, by divine admonition I assembled at the city of Nicæa most of the bishops; with whom I myself also, who am but one of you, and who rejoice exceedingly in being your fellow-servant, undertook the investigation of the truth. Accordingly, all points which seemed in consequence of ambiguity to furnish any pretext for dissension, have been discussed and accurately examined. And may the Divine Majesty pardon the fearful enormity of the blasphemies which some were shamelessly uttering concerning the mighty Saviour, our life and hope; declaring and confessing that they believe things contrary to the divinely inspired Scriptures. While more than three hundred bishops remarkable for their moderation and intellectual keenness, were unanimous in their confirmation of one and the same faith, which according to the truth and legitimate construction of the law of God can only be the faith; Arius alone beguiled by the subtlety of the devil, was discovered to be the sole disseminator of this mischief, first among you, and afterwards with unhallowed purposes among others also. Let us therefore embrace that doctrine which the Almighty has presented to us: let us return to our beloved brethren from whom an irreverent servant of the devil has separated us: let us go with all speed to the common body and our own natural members. For this is becoming your penetration, faith and sanctity; that since the error has been proved to be due to him who is an enemy to the truth, you should return to the divine favor. For that which has commended itself to the judgment of three hundred bishops cannot be other than the doctrine of God; seeing that the Holy Spirit dwelling in the minds of so many dignified persons has effectually enlightened them respecting the Divine will. Wherefore let no one vacillate or linger, but let all with alacrity return to the undoubted path of duty; that when I shall arrive among you, which will be as soon as possible, I may with you return due thanks to God, the inspector of all things, for having revealed the pure faith, and restored to you that love for which you have prayed. May God protect you, beloved brethren.
Thus wrote the emperor to the Christians of Alexandria, assuring them that the exposition of the faith was neither made rashly nor at random, but that it was dictated with much research, and after strict investigation: and not that some things were spoken of, while others were suppressed in silence; but that whatever could be fittingly advanced in support of any opinion was fully stated. That nothing indeed was precipitately determined, but all was previously discussed with minute accuracy; so that every point which seemed to furnish a pretext for ambiguity of meaning, or difference of opinion, was thoroughly sifted, and its difficulties removed. In short he terms the thought of all those who were assembled there the thought of God, and does not doubt that the unanimity of so many eminent bishops was effected by the Holy Spirit. Sabinus, however, the chief of the heresy of the Macedonians, willfully rejects these authorities, and calls those who were convened there ignorant and illiterate persons; nay, he almost accuses Eusebius of Cæsarea himself of ignorance: nor does he reflect, that even if those who constituted that synod had been laymen, yet as being illuminated by God, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, they were utterly unable to err from the truth. Nevertheless, hear farther what the emperor decreed in another circular both against Arius and those who held his opinions, sending it in all directions to the bishops and people.
Another Epistle of Constantine.
Victor Constantine Maximus Augustus, to the bishops and people.— Since Arius has imitated wicked and impious persons, it is just that he should undergo the like ignominy. Wherefore as Porphyry, that enemy of piety, for having composed licentious treatises against religion, found a suitable recompense, and such as thenceforth branded him with infamy, overwhelming him with deserved reproach, his impious writings also having been destroyed; so now it seems fit both that Arius and such as hold his sentiments should be denominated Porphyrians, that they may take their appellation from those whose conduct they have imitated. And in addition to this, if any treatise composed by Arius should be discovered, let it be consigned to the flames, in order that not only his depraved doctrine may be suppressed, but also that no memorial of him may be by any means left. This therefore I decree, that if any one shall be detected in concealing a book compiled by Arius, and shall not instantly bring it forward and burn it, the penalty for this offense shall be death; for immediately after conviction the criminal shall suffer capital punishment. May God preserve you!
Constantine Augustus, to the Churches.
Having experienced from the flourishing condition of public affairs, how great has been the grace of divine power, I judged this to be an object above all things claiming my care, that one faith, with sincere love, and uniform piety toward Almighty God should be maintained among the most blessed assemblies of the Catholic Church. But inasmuch as I perceived that this could not be firmly and permanently established, unless all, or at least the greatest part of the bishops could be convened in the same place, and every point of our most holy religion should be discussed by them in council; therefore as many as possible were assembled, and I myself also as one of you was present; for I will not deny what I especially rejoice in, that I am your fellow-servant. All points were then minutely investigated, until a decision acceptable to Him who is the inspector of all things, was published for the promotion of uniformity of judgment and practice; so that nothing might be henceforth left for dissension or controversy in matters of faith. There also the question having been considered relative to the most holy day of Easter, it was determined by common consent that it should be proper that all should celebrate it on one and the same day everywhere. For what can be more appropriate, or what more solemn, than that this feast from which we have received the hope of immortality, should be invariably kept in one order, and for an obvious reason among all? And in the first place, it seemed very unworthy of this most sacred feast, that we should keep it following the custom of the Jews; a people who having imbrued their hands in a most heinous outrage, have thus polluted their souls, and are deservedly blind. Having then cast aside their usage, we are free to see to it that the celebration of this observance should occur in future in the more correct order which we have kept from the first day of the Passion until the present time. Therefore have nothing in common with that most hostile people the Jews. We have received from the Saviour another way; for there is set before us both a legitimate and accurate course in our holy religion: unanimously pursuing this, let us, most honored brethren, withdraw ourselves from that detestable association. For it is truly absurd for them to boast that we are incapable of rightly observing these things without their instruction. For on what subject will they be competent to form a correct judgment, who after that murder of their Lord, having been bereft of their senses, are led not by any rational motive, but by an ungovernable impulse, wherever their innate fury may drive them? Thence it is therefore, that even in this particular they do not perceive the truth, so that they constantly erring in the utmost degree, instead of making a suitable correction, celebrate the Feast of Passover a second time in the same year. Why then should we follow the example of those who are acknowledged to be infected with grievous error? Surely we should never suffer Easter to be kept twice in one and the same year! But even if these considerations were not laid before you, it became your prudence at all times to take heed, both by diligence and prayer, that the purity of your soul should in nothing have communion, or seem to do so with the customs of men so utterly depraved. Moreover this should also be considered, that in a matter so important and of such religious significance, the slightest disagreement is most irreverent. For our Saviour left us but one day to be observed in commemoration of our deliverance, that is the day of his most holy Passion: he also wished his Catholic Church to be one; the members of which, however much they may be scattered in various places, are notwithstanding cherished by one Spirit, that is by the will of God. Let the prudence consistent with your sacred character consider how grievous and indecorous it is, that on the same days some should be observing fasts, while others are celebrating feasts; and after the days of Easter some should indulge in festivities and enjoyments, and others submit to appointed fastings. On this account therefore Divine Providence directed that an appropriate correction should be effected, and uniformity of practice established, as I suppose you are all aware.
Since then it was desirable that this should be so amended that we should have nothing in common with that nation of parricides, and of those who slew their Lord; and since the order is a becoming one which is observed by all the churches of the western, southern, and northern parts, and by some also in the eastern; from these considerations for the present all thought it to be proper, and I pledged myself that it would be satisfactory to your prudent penetration, that what is observed with such general unanimity of sentiment in the city of Rome, throughout Italy, Africa, all Egypt, Spain, France, Britain, Libya, the whole of Greece, and the dioceses of Asia, Pontus, and Cilicia, your intelligence also would cheerfully accept; reflecting too that not only is there a greater number of churches in the places before mentioned, but also that this in particular is a most sacred obligation, that all should in common desire whatever strict reason seems to demand, and what has no communion with the perjury of the Jews. But to sum up matters briefly, it was determined by common consent that the most holy festival of Easter should be solemnized on one and the same day; for it is not even seemly that there should be in such a hallowed solemnity any difference: and it is more commendable to adopt that opinion in which there will be no intermixture of strange error, or deviation from what is right. These things therefore being thus consistent, do you gladly receive this heavenly and truly divine command: for whatever is done in the sacred assemblies of the bishops is referable to the Divine will. Wherefore, when you have indicated the things which have been prescribed to all our beloved brethren, it behooves you to publish the above written statements and to accept the reasoning which has been adduced, and to establish this observance of the most holy day: that when I arrive at the long and earnestly desired view of your order, I may be able to celebrate the sacred festival with you on one and the same day; and may rejoice with you for all things, in seeing Satanic cruelty frustrated by divine power through our efforts, while your faith, peace and concord are everywhere flourishing. May God preserve you, beloved brethren.
Another Epistle to Eusebius.
Victor Constantine Maximus Augustus, to Eusebius.
Since an impious purpose and tyranny have even to the present time persecuted the servants of God our Saviour, I have been credibly informed and am fully persuaded, most beloved brother, that all our sacred edifices have either by neglect gone to decay, or from dread of impending danger have not been adorned with becoming dignity. But now that liberty has been restored, and that persecuting dragon Licinius has by the providence of the Most High God, and our instrumentality, been removed from the administration of public affairs, I imagine that the divine power has been made manifest to all, and at the same time that those who either through fear or unbelief fell into any sins, having acknowledged the living God, will come to the true and right course of life. Wherefore enjoin the churches over which you yourself preside, as well as the other bishops presiding in various places, together with the presbyters and deacons whom you know, to be diligent about the sacred edifices, either by repairing those which remain standing, or enlarging them, or by erecting new ones wherever it may be requisite. And do you yourself ask, and the rest through you, the necessary supplies both from the governors of the provinces, and the officers of the prætorian prefecture: for directions have been given to them to execute with all diligence the orders of your holiness. May God preserve you, beloved brother.
These instructions, concerning the building of churches were sent by the emperor to the bishops in every province: but what he wrote to Eusebius of Palestine respecting the preparation of some copies of the Scriptures, we may ascertain from the letters themselves:
Victor Constantine Maximus Augustus, to Eusebius of Cæsarea.
In the city which derives its name from us, a very great multitude of persons, through the assisting providence of our Saviour God, have united themselves to the most holy Church, so that it has received much increase there. It is therefore requisite that more churches should be furnished in that place: wherefore do you most cordially enter into the purpose which I have conceived. I have thought fit to intimate this to your prudence, that you should order to be transcribed on well-prepared parchment, by competent writers accurately acquainted with their art, fifty copies of the Sacred Scriptures, both legibly described, and of a portable size, the provision and use of which you know to be needful for the instruction of the Church. Letters have also been dispatched from our clemency, to the financial agent of the diocese that he be careful to provide all things necessary for the preparation of them. That these copies may be got ready as quickly as possible, let it be a task for your diligence: and you are authorized, on the warrant of this our letter, to use two of the public carriages for their conveyance; for thus the copies which are most satisfactorily transcribed, may be easily conveyed for our inspection, one of the deacons of your church fulfilling this commission; who when he has reached us shall experience our bounty. May God preserve you, beloved brother.
Another Epistle to Macarius.
Victor Constantine Maximus Augustus, to Macarius of Jerusalem.— Such is the grace of our Saviour, that no supply of words seems to be adequate to the expression of its present manifestation. For that the monument of his most holy passion, long since hidden under the earth, should have lain concealed for a period of so many years, until, through the destruction of the common enemy of all, it should shine forth to his own servants after their having regained their freedom, exceeds all admiration. For if all those who throughout the whole habitable earth are accounted wise, should be convened in one and the same place, desiring to say something worthy of the event, they would fall infinitely short of the least part of it; for the apprehension of this wonder as far transcends every nature capable of human reasoning, as heavenly things are mightier than human. Hence therefore this is always my special aim, that as the credibility of the truth daily demonstrates itself by fresh miracles, so the souls of us all should become more diligent respecting the holy law, with modesty and unanimous eagerness. But I desire that you should be fully aware of what I conceive is pretty generally known, that it is now my chief care, that we should adorn with magnificent structures that hallowed spot, which by God's appointment I have disencumbered of a most disgraceful addition of an idol, as of some grievous burden; which was consecrated indeed from the beginning in the purpose of God, but has been more manifestly sanctified since he has brought to light the evidence of the Saviour's passion. Wherefore it is becoming your prudence to make such arrangements, and provision of everything necessary, that not only a church should be built in itself superior to any elsewhere, but that the rest of its parts also may be such that all the most splendid edifices in every city may be excelled by this. With regard to the workmanship and chaste execution of the walls, know that we have entrusted the care of these things to our friend Dracilian, deputy to the most illustrious prefects of the prætorium, and to the governor of the province: for my piety has ordered that artificers and workmen, and whatever other things they may be informed from your sagacity to be necessary for the structure, shall through their care be immediately sent. Respecting the columns or the marbles, whatever you may judge to be more precious and useful, do you yourself after having inspected the plan take care to write to us; that when we shall understand from your letter how many things and of what kind there may be need of, these may be conveyed to you from all quarters: for it is but just that the most wonderful place in the world, should be adorned in accordance with its dignity. But I wish to know from you, whether you consider that the vault of the basilica should be fretted, or constructed on some other plan: for if it is to be fretted, it can also be decorated with gold. It remains that your holiness should inform the officers before mentioned as soon as possible, how many workmen and artificers, and what money for expenses you will want. Be careful at the same time to report to me speedily, not only concerning the marbles and columns, but also concerning the fretted vault, if indeed you should decide this to be the more beautiful. May God preserve you, beloved brother.
The emperor having also written other letters of a more oratorical character against Arius and his adherents, caused them to be everywhere published throughout the cities, exposing him to ridicule, and taunting him with irony. Moreover, writing to the Nicomedians against Eusebius and Theognis, he censures the misconduct of Eusebius, not only on account of his Arianism, but because also having formerly been well-affected to the ruler, he had traitorously conspired against his affairs. He then exhorts them to elect another bishop instead of him. But I thought it would be superfluous to insert here the letters respecting these things, because of their length: those who wish to do so may find them elsewhere and give them a perusal. This is sufficient notice of these transactions.
The emperor's diligence induces me to mention another circumstance expressive of his mind, and serving to show how much he desired peace. For aiming at ecclesiastical harmony, he summoned to the council Acesius also, a bishop of the sect of Novatians. Now, when the declaration of faith had been written out and subscribed by the Synod, the emperor asked Acesius whether he would also agree to this creed to the settlement of the day on which Easter should be observed. He replied, 'The Synod has determined nothing new, my prince: for thus heretofore, even from the beginning, from the times of the apostles, I traditionally received the definition of the faith, and the time of the celebration of Easter.' When, therefore, the emperor further asked him, 'For what reason then do you separate yourself from communion with the rest of the Church.' he related what had taken place during the persecution under Decius; and referred to the rigidness of that austere canon which declares, that it is not right persons who after baptism have committed a sin, which the sacred Scriptures denominate 'a sin unto death' John 5:16 to be considered worthy of participation in the sacraments: that they should indeed be exhorted to repentance, but were not to expect remission from the priest, but from God, who is able and has authority to forgive sins. When Acesius had thus spoken, the emperor said to him, 'Place a ladder, Acesius, and climb alone into heaven.' Neither Eusebius Pamphilus nor any other has ever mentioned these things: but I heard them from a man by no means prone to falsehood, who was very old, and simply stated what had taken place in the council in the course of a narrative. From which I conjecture that those who have passed by this occurrence in silence, were actuated by motives which have influenced many other historians: for they frequently suppress important facts, either from prejudice against some, or partiality towards others.
As we have promised above to make some mention of Paphnutius and Spyridon, it is time to speak of them here. Paphnutius then was bishop of one of the cities in Upper Thebes: he was a man so favored divinely that extraordinary miracles were done by him. In the time of the persecution he had been deprived of one of his eyes. The emperor honored this man exceedingly, and often sent for him to the palace, and kissed the part where the eye had been torn out. So great devoutness characterized the emperor Constantine. Let this single fact respecting Paphnutius suffice: I shall now explain another thing which came to pass in consequence of his advice, both for the good of the Church and the honor of the clergy. It seemed fit to the bishops to introduce a new law into the Church, that those who were in holy orders, I speak of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, should have no conjugal intercourse with the wives whom they had married while still laymen. Now when discussion on this matter was impending, Paphnutius having arisen in the midst of the assembly of bishops, earnestly entreated them not to impose so heavy a yoke on the ministers of religion: asserting that 'marriage itself is honorable, and the bed undefiled'; Hebrews 13:4 urging before God that they ought not to injure the Church by too stringent restrictions. 'For all men,' said he, 'cannot bear the practice of rigid continence; neither perhaps would the chastity of the wife of each be preserved': and he termed the intercourse of a man with his lawful wife chastity. It would be sufficient, he thought, that such as had previously entered on their sacred calling should abjure matrimony, according to the ancient tradition of the Church: but that none should be separated from her to whom, while yet unordained, he had been united. And these sentiments he expressed, although himself without experience of marriage, and, to speak plainly, without ever having known a woman: for from a boy he had been brought up in a monastery, and was specially renowned above all men for his chastity. The whole assembly of the clergy assented to the reasoning of Paphnutius: wherefore they silenced all further debate on this point, leaving it to the discretion of those who were husbands to exercise abstinence if they so wished in reference to their wives. Thus much concerning Paphnutius.
With respect to Spyridon, so great was his sanctity while a shepherd, that he was thought worthy of being made a Pastor of men: and having been assigned the bishopric of one of the cities in Cyprus named Trimithus, on account of his extreme humility he continued to feed his sheep during his incumbency of the bishopric. Many extraordinary things are related of him: I shall however record but one or two, lest I should seem to wander from my subject. Once about midnight, thieves having clandestinely entered his sheepfold attempted to carry off some of the sheep. But God who protected the shepherd preserved his sheep also; for the thieves were by an invisible power bound to the folds. At daybreak, when he came to the sheep and found the men with their hands tied behind them, he understood what was done: and after having prayed he liberated the thieves, earnestly admonishing and exhorting them to support themselves by honest labor, and not to take anything unjustly. He then gave them a ram, and sent them away, humorously adding, 'that you may not appear to have watched all night in vain.' This is one of the miracles in connection with Spyridon. Another was of this kind. He had a virgin daughter named Irene, who was a partaker of her father's piety. An acquaintance entrusted to her keeping an ornament of considerable value: she, to guard it more securely, hid what had been deposited with her in the ground, and not long afterwards died. Subsequently the owner of the property came to claim it; and not finding the virgin, he began an excited conversation with the father, at times accusing him of an attempt to defraud him, and then again beseeching him to restore the deposit. The old man, regarding this person's loss as his own misfortune, went to the tomb of his daughter, and called upon God to show him before its proper season the promised resurrection. Nor was he disappointed in his hope: for the virgin again reviving appeared to her father, and having pointed out to him the spot where she had hidden the ornament, she once more departed. Such characters as these adorned the churches in the time of the emperor Constantine. These details I obtained from many inhabitants of Cyprus. I have also found a treatise composed in Latin by the presbyter Rufinus, from which I have collected these and some other things which will be hereafter adduced.
I have heard moreover concerning Eutychian, a devout person who flourished about the same time; who also belonged to the Novatian church, yet was venerated for the performance of similar miracles. I shall unequivocally state my authority for this narrative, nor will I attempt to conceal it, even though I give offense to some parties. It was Auxanon, a very aged presbyter of the Novatian church; who when quite a youth accompanied Acesius to the Synod at Nicæa, and related to me what I have said concerning him. His life extended from that period to the reign of Theodosius the Younger; and when I was a mere youth he recounted to me the acts of Eutychian, enlarging much on the divine grace which was manifested in him: but one circumstance he alluded to, which occurred in the reign of Constantine, peculiarly worthy of mention. One of those military attendants, whom the emperor calls his domestic [or body] guards having been suspected of treasonable practices, sought his safety in flight. The indignant monarch ordered that he should be put to death, wherever he might be found: who, having been arrested on the Bithynian Olympus, was bound with heavy and painful chains and kept imprisoned near those parts of Olympus where Eutychian was leading a solitary life, and healing both the bodies and souls of many. The aged Auxanon being then very young was with him, and was being trained by him in the discipline of the monastic life. Many persons came to this Eutychian, entreating him to procure the release of the prisoner by interceding for him with the emperor. For the fame of the miracles done by Eutychian had reached the ears of the emperor. He readily promised to go to the sovereign; but as the chains inflicted intolerable suffering, those who interested themselves on his behalf declared that death caused by the effect of his chains would anticipate both the emperor's vengeance and any intercession that might be made for the prisoner. Accordingly Eutychian sent to the jailers requesting them to relieve the man; but they having answered that they should bring themselves into danger by relieving a criminal, he went himself to the prison, attended by Auxanon; and as they refused to open the jail, the grace which rested on Eutychian was rendered more conspicuous: for the gates of the prison opened of their own accord, while the jailers had the keys in their custody. As soon as Eutychian, together with Auxanon, had entered the prison, to the great astonishment of all then present the fetters spontaneously fell from the prisoner's limbs. He then proceeded with Auxanon to the city which was anciently called Byzantium but afterwards Constantinople, where having been admitted into the imperial palace, he saved the man from death; for the emperor, entertaining great veneration for Eutychian, readily granted his request. This indeed occurred some time after [the period to which this part of our history refers].
The bishops who were convened at the council of Nicæa, after having drawn up and enrolled certain other ecclesiastical regulations which they are accustomed to term canons, again departed to their respective cities: and as I conceive it will be appreciated by lovers of learning, I shall here subjoin the names of such as were present, as far as I have been able to ascertain them, with the province and city over which they severally presided, and likewise the date at which this assembly took place. Hosius, who was I believe bishop of Cordova in Spain, as I have before stated. Vito and Vicentius, presbyters of Rome, Alexander, bishop of Egypt, Eustathius of Antiochia Magna, Macarius of Jerusalem, and Harpocration of Cynopolis: the names of the rest are fully reported in The Synodicon of Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria. This Synod was convened (as we have discovered from the notation of the date prefixed to the record of the Synod) in the consulate of Paulinus and Julian, on the 20th day of May, and in the 636th year from the reign of Alexander the Macedonian. Accordingly the work of the council was accomplished. It should be noted that after the council the emperor went into the western parts of the empire.
Eusebius and Theognis having sent a penitential confession to the principal bishops, were by an imperial edict recalled from exile and restored to their own churches, displacing those who had been ordained in their places; Eusebius [displacing] Amphion, and Theognis Chrestus. This is a copy of their written retraction:
'We having been sometime since condemned by your piety, without a formal trial, ought to bear in silence the decisions of your sacred adjudication. But since it is unreasonable that we by silence should countenance caluminators against ourselves, we on this account declare that we entirely concur with you in the faith; and also that, after having closely considered the import of the term consubstantial, we have been wholly studious of peace, having never followed the heresy. After suggesting whatever entered our thought for the security of the churches, and fully assuring those under our influence, we subscribed the declaration of faith; we did not subscribe the anathematizing; not as objecting to the creed, but as disbelieving the party accused to be such as was represented, having been satisfied on this point, both from his own letters to us, and from personal conversations. But if your holy council was convinced, we not opposing but concurring in your decisions, by this statement give them our full assent and confirmation: and this we do not as wearied with our exile, but to shake off the suspicion of heresy. If therefore ye should now think fit to restore us to your presence, you will have us on all points conformable, and acquiescent in your decrees: especially since it has seemed good to your piety to deal tenderly with and recall even him who was primarily accused. It would be absurd for us to be silent, and thus give presumptive evidence against ourselves, when the one who seemed responsible has been permitted to clear himself from the charges brought against him. Vouchsafe then, as is consistent with that Christ-loving piety of yours, to remind our most religious emperor, to present our petitions, and to determine speedily concerning us in a way becoming yourselves.'
Such was the language of the recantation of Eusebius and Theognis; from which I infer that they had subscribed the articles of faith which had been set forth, but would not become parties to the condemnation of Arius. It appears also that Arius was recalled before them; but, although this may be true, yet he had been forbidden to enter Alexandria. This is evident from the fact that he afterwards devised a way of return for himself, both into the church and into Alexandria, by having made a fictitious repentance, as we shall show in its proper place.
A little after this, Alexander bishop of Alexandria having died, Athanasius was set over that church. Rufinus relates, that this [Athanasius] when quite a boy, played with others of his own age at a sacred game: this was an imitation of the priesthood and the order of consecrated persons. In this game therefore Athanasius was allotted the episcopal chair, and each of the other lads personated either a presbyter or a deacon. The children engaged in this sport on the day in which the memory of the martyr and bishop Peter was celebrated. Now at that time Alexander bishop of Alexandria happening to pass by, observed the play in which they were engaged, and having sent for the children, enquired from them the part each had been assigned in the game, conceiving that something might be portended by that which had been done. He then gave directions that the children should be taken to the church, and instructed in learning, but especially Athanasius; and having afterwards ordained him deacon on his becoming of adult age, he brought him to Nicæa to assist him in the disputations there when the Synod was convened. This account of Athanasius Rufinus has given in his own writings; nor is it improbable that it took place, for many transactions of this kind have often occurred. Concerning this matter it will suffice to have said the above.
After the Synod the emperor spent some time in recreation, and after the public celebration of his twentieth anniversary of his accession, he immediately devoted himself to the reparation of the churches. This he carried into effect in other cities as well as in the city named after him, which being previously called Byzantium, he enlarged, surrounded with massive walls, and adorned with various edifices; and having rendered it equal to imperial Rome, he named it Constantinople, establishing by law that it should be designated New Rome. This law was engraven on a pillar of stone erected in public view in the Strategium, near the emperor's equestrian statue. He built also in the same city two churches, one of which he named Irene, and the other The Apostles. Nor did he only improve the affairs of the Christians, as I have said, but he also destroyed the superstition of the heathens; for he brought forth their images into public view to ornament the city of Constantinople, and set up the Delphic tripods publicly in the Hippodrome. It may indeed seem now superfluous to mention these things, since they are seen before they are heard of. But at that time the Christian cause received its greatest augmentation; for Divine Providence preserved very many other things during the times of the emperor Constantine. Eusebius Pamphilus has in magnificent terms recorded the praises of the emperor; and I considered it would not be ill-timed to advert thus to them as concisely as possible.
Helena, the emperor's mother (from whose name having made Drepanum, once a village, a city, the emperor called it Helenopolis), being divinely directed by dreams went to Jerusalem. Finding that which was once Jerusalem, desolate 'as a Preserve for autumnal fruits,' according to the prophet, she sought carefully the sepulchre of Christ, from which he arose after his burial; and after much difficulty, by God's help she discovered it. What the cause of the difficulty was I will explain in a few words. Those who embraced the Christian faith, after the period of his passion, greatly venerated this tomb; but those who hated Christianity, having covered the spot with a mound of earth, erected on it a temple to Venus, and set up her image there, not caring for the memory of the place. This succeeded for a long time; and it became known to the emperor's mother. Accordingly she having caused the statue to be thrown down, the earth to be removed, and the ground entirely cleared, found three crosses in the sepulchre: one of these was that blessed cross on which Christ had hung, the other two were those on which the two thieves that were crucified with him had died. With these was also found the tablet of Pilate, on which he had inscribed in various characters, that the Christ who was crucified was king of the Jews. Since, however, it was doubtful which was the cross they were in search of, the emperor's mother was not a little distressed; but from this trouble the bishop of Jerusalem, Macarius, shortly relieved her. And he solved the doubt by faith, for he sought a sign from God and obtained it. The sign was this: a certain woman of the neighborhood, who had been long afflicted with disease, was now just at the point of death; the bishop therefore arranged it so that each of the crosses should be brought to the dying woman, believing that she would be healed on touching the precious cross. Nor was he disappointed in his expectation: for the two crosses having been applied which were not the Lord's, the woman still continued in a dying state; but when the third, which was the true cross, touched her, she was immediately healed, and recovered her former strength. In this manner then was the genuine cross discovered. The emperor's mother erected over the place of the sepulchre a magnificent church, and named it New Jerusalem, having built it facing that old and deserted city. There she left a portion of the cross, enclosed in a silver case, as a memorial to those who might wish to see it: the other part she sent to the emperor, who being persuaded that the city would be perfectly secure where that relic should be preserved, privately enclosed it in his own statue, which stands on a large column of porphyry in the forum called Constantine's at Constantinople. I have written this from report indeed; but almost all the inhabitants of Constantinople affirm that it is true. Moreover the nails with which Christ's hands were fastened to the cross (for his mother having found these also in the sepulchre had sent them) Constantine took and had made into bridle-bits and a helmet, which he used in his military expeditions. The emperor supplied all materials for the construction of the churches, and wrote to Macarius the bishop to expedite these edifices. When the emperor's mother had completed the New Jerusalem, she reared another church not at all inferior, over the cave at Bethlehem where Christ was born according to the flesh: nor did she stop here, but built a third on the mount of his Ascension. So devoutly was she affected in these matters, that she would pray in the company of women; and inviting the virgins enrolled in the register of the churches to a repast, serving them herself, she brought the dishes to table. She was also very munificent to the churches and to the poor; and having lived a life of piety, she died when about eighty years old. Her remains were conveyed to New Rome, the capital, and deposited in the imperial sepulchres.
After this the emperor became increasingly attentive to the interests of the Christians, and abandoned the heathen superstitions. He abolished the combats of the gladiators, and set up his own statues in the temples. And as the heathens affirmed that it was Serapis who brought up the Nile for the purpose of irrigating Egypt, because a cubit was usually carried into his temple, he directed Alexander to transfer the cubit to the church. And although they predicted that the Nile would not overflow because of the displeasure of Serapis, nevertheless there was an inundation in the following year and afterwards, taking place regularly: thus it was proved by fact that the rising of the Nile was not in consequence of their superstition, but by reason of the decrees of Providence. About the same time those barbarians the Sarmatians and Goths made incursions on the Roman territory; yet the emperor's earnestness respecting the churches was by no means abated, but he made suitable provision for both these matters. Placing his confidence in the Christian banner, he completely vanquished his enemies, so as even to cast off the tribute of gold which preceding emperors were accustomed to pay the barbarians: while they themselves, being terror-struck at the unexpectedness of their defeat, then for the first time embraced the Christian religion, by means of which Constantine had been protected. Again he built other churches, one of which was erected near the Oak of Mamre, under which the Sacred Oracles declare that Abraham entertained angels. For the emperor having been informed that altars had been reared under that oak, and that pagan sacrifices were offered upon them, censured by letter Eusebius bishop of Cæsarea, and ordered that the altars should be demolished, and a house of prayer erected beside the oak. He also directed that another church should be constructed in Heliopolis in Phœnicia, for this reason. Who originally legislated for the inhabitants of Heliopolis I am unable to state, but his character and morals may be judged of from the [practice of that] city; for the laws of the country ordered the women among them to be common, and therefore the children born there were of doubtful descent, so that there was no distinction of fathers and their offspring. Their virgins also were presented for prostitution to the strangers who resorted there. The emperor hastened to correct this evil which had long prevailed among them. And passing a solemn law of chastity, he removed the shameful evil and provided for the mutual recognition of families. And having built churches there, he took care that a bishop and sacred clergy should be ordained. Thus he reformed the corrupt manners of the people of Heliopolis. He likewise demolished the temple of Venus at Aphaca on Mount Libanus, and abolished the infamous deeds which were there celebrated. Why need I describe his expulsion of the Pythonic demon from Cilicia, by commanding the mansion in which he was lurking to be razed from its foundations? So great indeed was the emperor's devotion to Christianity, that when he was about to enter on a war with Persia, he prepared a tabernacle formed of embroidered linen on the model of a church, just as Moses had done in the wilderness; Exodus xxxv.-xl and this so constructed as to be adapted to conveyance from place to place, in order that he might have a house of prayer even in the most desert regions. But the war was not at that time carried on, being prevented through dread of the emperor. It would, I conceive, be out of place here to describe the emperor's diligence in rebuilding cities and converting many villages into cities; as for example Drepanum, to which he gave his mother's name, and Constantia in Palestine, so called from his sister. For my task is not to enumerate of the emperor's actions, but simply such as are connected with Christianity, and especially those which relate to the churches. Wherefore I leave to others more competent to detail such matters, the emperor's glorious achievements, inasmuch as they belong to a different subject, and require a distinct treatise. But I myself should have been silent, if the Church had remained undisturbed by divisions: for where the subject does not supply matter for relation, there is no necessity for a narrator. Since however subtle and vain disputation has confused and at the same time scattered the apostolic faith of Christianity, I thought it desirable to record these things, in order that the transactions of the churches might not be lost in obscurity. For accurate information on these points procures celebrity among the many, and at the same time renders him who is acquainted with them more secure from error, and instructs him not to be carried away by any empty sound of sophistical argumentation which he may chance to hear.
We must now mention in what manner Christianity was spread in this emperor's reign: for it was in his time that the nations both of the Indians in the interior, and of the Iberians first embraced the Christian faith. But I shall briefly explain why I have used the appended expression in the interior. When the apostles went forth by lot among the nations, Thomas received the apostleship of the Parthians; Matthew was allotted Ethiopia; and Bartholomew the part of India contiguous to that country: but the interior India, in which many barbarous nations using different languages lived, was not enlightened by Christian doctrine before the times of Constantine. I now come to speak of the cause which led them to become converts to Christianity. A certain philosopher, Meropius, a Tyrian by race, determined to acquaint himself with the country of the Indians, being stimulated to this by the example of the philosopher Metrodorus, who had previously traveled through the region of India. Having taken with him therefore two youths to whom he was related, who were by no means ignorant of the Greek language, Meropius reached the country by ship; and when he had inspected whatever he wished, he touched at a certain place which had a safe harbor, for the purpose of procuring some necessaries. It so happened that a little before that time the treaty between the Romans and Indians had been violated. The Indians, therefore, having seized the philosopher and those who sailed with him, killed them all except his two youthful kinsmen; but sparing them from compassion for their tender age, they sent them as a gift to the king of the Indians. He being pleased with the personal appearance of the youths, constituted one of them, whose name was Edesius, cup-bearer at his table; the other, named Frumentius, he entrusted with the care of the royal records. The king dying soon after, left them free, the government devolving on his wife and infant son. Now the queen seeing her son thus left in his minority, begged the young men to undertake the charge of him, until he should become of adult age. Accordingly, the youths accepted the task, and entered on the administration of the kingdom. Thus Frumentius controlled all things and made it a task to enquire whether among the Roman merchants trafficking with that country, there were any Christians to be found: and having discovered some, he informed them who he was, and exhorted them to select and occupy some appropriate places for the celebration of Christian worship. In the course of a little while he built a house of prayer; and having instructed some of the Indians in the principles of Christianity, they fitted them for participation in the worship. On the young king's reaching maturity, Frumentius and his associates resigned to him the administration of public affairs, in the management of which they had honorably acquitted themselves, and besought permission to return to their own country. Both the king and his mother entreated them to remain; but being desirous of revisiting their native place, they could not be prevailed on, and consequently departed. Edesius for his part hastened to Tyre to see his parents and kindred; but Frumentius arriving at Alexandria, reported the affair to Athanasius the bishop, who had but recently been invested with that dignity; and acquainting him both with the particulars of his wanderings and the hopes Indians had of receiving Christianity. He also begged him to send a bishop and clergy there, and by no means to neglect those who might thus be brought to salvation. Athanasius having considered how this could be most profitably effected, requested Frumentius himself to accept the bishopric, declaring that he could appoint no one more suitable than he was. Accordingly this was done; Frumentius invested with episcopal authority, returned to India and became there a preacher of the Gospel, and built several churches, being aided also by divine grace, he performed various miracles, healing with the souls also the bodily diseases of many. Rufinus assures us that he heard these facts from Edesius, who was afterwards ordained to the priesthood at Tyre.
It is now proper to relate how the Iberians about the same time became proselytes to the faith. A certain woman leading a devout and chaste life, was, in the providential ordering of God, taken captive by the Iberians. Now these Iberians dwell near the Euxine Sea, and are a colony of the Iberians of Spain. Accordingly the woman in her captivity exercised herself among the barbarians in the practice of virtue: for she not only maintained the most rigid continence, but spent much time in fastings and prayers. The barbarians observing this were astonished at the strangeness of her conduct. It happened then that the king's son, then a mere babe, was attacked with disease; the queen, according to the custom of the country, sent the child to other women to be cured, in the hope that their experience would supply a remedy. After the infant had been carried around by its nurse without obtaining relief from any of the women, he was at length brought to this captive. She had no knowledge of the medical art, and applied no material remedy; but taking the child and laying it on her bed which was made of horsecloth, in the presence of other females, she simply said, 'Christ, who healed many, will heal this child also'; then having prayed in addition to this expression of faith, and called upon God, the boy was immediately restored, and continued well from that period. The report of this miracle spread itself far and wide among the barbarian women, and soon reached the queen, so that the captive became very celebrated. Not long afterwards the queen herself having fallen sick sent for the captive woman. Inasmuch as she being a person of modest and retiring manners excused herself from going, the queen was conveyed to her. The captive did the same to her as she had done to her son before; and immediately the disease was removed. And the queen thanked the stranger; but she replied, 'this work is not mine, but Christ's, who is the Son of God that made the world'; she therefore exhorted her to call upon him, and acknowledge the true God. Amazed at his wife's sudden restoration to health, the king of the Iberians wished to requite with gifts her whom he had understood to be the means of effecting these cures; she however said that she needed not riches, inasmuch as she possessed as riches the consolations of religion; but that she would regard as the greatest present he could offer her, his recognition of the God whom she worshipped and declared. With this she sent back the gifts. This answer the king treasured up in his mind, and going forth to the chase the next day, the following circumstance occurred: a mist and thick darkness covered the mountain tops and forests where he was hunting, so that their sport was embarrassed, and their path became inextricable. In this perplexity the prince earnestly invoked the gods whom he worshipped; and as it availed nothing, he at last determined to implore the assistance of the captive's God; when scarcely had he begun to pray, ere the darkness arising from the mist was completely dissipated. Wondering at that which was done, he returned to his palace rejoicing, and related to his wife what had happened; he also immediately sent for the captive stranger, and begged her to inform him who that God was whom she adored. The woman on her arrival caused the king of the Iberians to become a preacher of Christ: for having believed in Christ through this devoted woman, he convened all the Iberians who were under his authority; and when he had declared to them what had taken place in reference to the cure of his wife and child not only, but also the circumstances connected with the chase, he exhorted them to worship the God of the captive. Thus, therefore, both the king and the queen were made preachers of Christ, the one addressing their male, and the other their female subjects. Moreover, the king having ascertained from his prisoner the plan on which churches were constructed among the Romans, ordered a church to be built, and immediately provided all things necessary for its erection; and the edifice was accordingly commenced. But when they came to set up the pillars, Divine Providence interposed for the confirmation of the inhabitants in the faith; for one of the columns remained immovable, and no means were found capable of moving it; but their ropes broke and their machinery fell to pieces; at length the workmen gave up all further effort and departed. Then was proved the reality of the captive's faith in the following manner: going to the place at night without the knowledge of any one, she spent the whole time in prayer; and by the power of God the pillar was raised, and stood erect in the air above its base, yet so as not to touch it. At daybreak the king, who was an intelligent person, came himself to inspect the work, and seeing the pillar suspended in this position without support, both he and his attendants were amazed. Shortly after, in fact before their very eyes, the pillar descended on its own pedestal, and there remained fixed. Upon this the people shouted, attesting the truth of the king's faith, and hymning the praise of the God of the captive. They believed thenceforth, and with eagerness raised the rest of the columns, and the whole building was soon completed. An embassy was afterwards sent to the Emperor Constantine, requesting that henceforth they might be in alliance with the Romans, and receive from them a bishop and consecrated clergy, since they sincerely believed in Christ. Rufinus says that he learned these facts from Bacurius, who was formerly one of the petty princes of the Iberians, but subsequently went over to the Romans, and was made a captain of the military force in Palestine; being at length entrusted with the supreme command in the war against the tyrant Maximus, he assisted the Emperor Theodosius. In this way then, during the days of Constantine, were the Iberians also converted to Christianity.
What sort of a man the monk Anthony was, who lived in the same age, in the Egyptian desert, and how he openly contended with devils, clearly detecting their devices and wily modes of warfare, and how he performed many miracles, it would be superfluous for us to say; for Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, has anticipated us, having devoted an entire book to his biography. Of such good men there was a large number at one time during the years of the Emperor Constantine.
But amidst the good wheat, tares are accustomed to spring up; for envy loves to plot insidiously against the good. Hence it was that a little while before the time of Constantine, a species of heathenish Christianity made its appearance together with that which was real; just as false prophets sprang up among the true, and false apostles among the true apostles. For at that time a dogma of Empedocles, the heathen philosopher, by means of Manichæus, assumed the form of Christian doctrine. Eusebius Pamphilus has indeed mentioned this person in the seventh book of his Ecclesiastical History, but has not entered into minute details concerning him. Wherefore, I deem it incumbent on me to supply some particulars which he has left unnoticed: thus it will be known who this Manichæus was, whence he came, and what was the nature of his presumptuous daring.
A Saracen named Scythian married a captive from the Upper Thebes. On her account he dwelt in Egypt, and having versed himself in the learning of the Egyptians, he subtly introduced the theory of Empedocles and Pythagoras among the doctrines of the Christian faith. Asserting that there were two natures, a good and an evil one, he termed, as Empedocles had done, the latter Discord, and the former Friendship. Of this Scythian, Buddas, who had been previously called Terebinthus, became a disciple; and he having proceeded to Babylon, which the Persians inhabit, made many extravagant statements respecting himself, declaring that he was born of a virgin, and brought up in the mountains. The same man afterwards composed four books, one he entitled The Mysteries, another The Gospel, a third The Treasure, and the fourth Heads [Summaries]; but pretending to perform some mystic rites, he was hurled down a precipice by a spirit, and so perished. A certain woman at whose house he had lodged buried him, and taking possession of his property, bought a boy about seven years old whose name was Cubricus: this lad she enfranchised, and having given him a liberal education, she soon after died, leaving him all that belonged to Terebinthus, including the books he had written on the principles inculcated by Scythian. Cubricus, the freedman, taking these things with him and having withdrawn into the regions of Persia, changed his name, calling himself Manes; and disseminated the books of Buddas or Terebinthus among his deluded followers as his own. Now the contents of these treatises apparently agree with Christianity in expression, but are pagan in sentiment: for Manichæus being an atheist, incited his disciples to acknowledge a plurality of gods, and taught them to worship the sun. He also introduced the doctrine of Fate, denying human free-will; and affirmed a transmutation of bodies, clearly following the opinions of Empedocles, Pythagoras, and the Egyptians. He denied that Christ existed in the flesh, asserting that he was an apparition; and rejected moreover the law and the prophets, calling himself the 'Comforter,'— all of which dogmas are totally at variance with the orthodox faith of the church. In his epistles he even dared to call himself an apostle; but for a pretension so unfounded he brought upon himself merited retribution in the following manner. The son of the Persian monarch having been attacked with disease, his father became anxious for his recovery, and left no means untried in order to effect it; and as he had heard of the wonder-working of Manichæus, and thinking that these miracles were real, he sent for him as an apostle, trusting that through him his son might be restored. He accordingly presented himself at court, and with his assumed manner undertook the treatment of the young prince. But the king seeing that the child died in his hands shut up the deceiver in prison, with the intention of putting him to death. However, he contrived to escape, and fled into Mesopotamia; but the king of Persia having discovered that he was dwelling there, caused him to be brought thence by force, and after having flayed him alive, he stuffed his skin with chaff, and suspended it in front of the gate of the city. These things we state not having manufactured them ourselves, but collected from a book entitled The disputation of Archelaus bishop of Caschara (one of the cities of Mesopotamia). For Archelaus himself states that he disputed with Manichæus face to face, and mentions the circumstances connected with his life to which we have now alluded. Envy thus delights, as we before remarked, to be insidiously at work in the midst of a prosperous condition of affairs. But for what reason the goodness of God permits this to be done, whether he wishes thereby to bring into activity the excellence of the principles of the church, and to utterly break down the self-importance which is wont to unite itself with faith; or for what other cause, is, at the same time, a difficult question, and not relevant to the present discussion. For our object is neither to examine the soundness of doctrinal views, nor to analyze the mysterious reasons for the providences and judgments of God; but to detail as faithfully as possible the history of transactions which have taken place in the churches. The way in which the superstition of the Manichæans sprang up a little before the time of Constantine has been thus described; now let us return to the times and events which are the proper subjects of this history.
The partisans of Eusebius and Theognis having returned from their exile, these latter were reinstated in their churches, having expelled, as we observed, those who had been ordained in their stead. Moreover, they came into great consideration with the emperor, who honored them exceedingly, as those who had returned from error to the orthodox faith. They, however, abused the license thus afforded them, by exciting greater commotions in the world than they had done before; being instigated to this by two causes— on the one hand the Arian heresy with which they had been previously infected, and bitter animosity against Athanasius on the other, because he had so vigorously withstood them in the Synod while the articles of faith were under discussion. And in the first place they objected to the ordination of Athanasius partly as a person unworthy of the prelacy, and partly because he had been elected by disqualified persons. But when Athanasius had shown himself superior to this calumny (for having assumed control of the church of Alexandria, he ardently contended for the Nicene creed), then Eusebius exerted himself to the utmost insidiously to cause the removal of Athanasius and to bring Arius back to Alexandria; for he thought that thus only he should be able to expunge the doctrine of consubstantiality, and introduce Arianism. Eusebius therefore wrote to Athanasius, desiring him to re-admit Arius and his adherents into the church. Now the tone of his letter indeed was that of entreaty, but openly he menaced him. And as Athanasius would by no means accede to this, he endeavored to induce the emperor to give Arius an audience, and then permit him to return to Alexandria: and by what means he attained his object, I shall mention in its proper place. Meanwhile before this another commotion was raised in the church. In fact, her own children again disturbed her peace. Eusebius Pamphilus says, that immediately after the Synod, Egypt became agitated by intestine divisions: not assigning, however, the reason for this, so that hence he has won the reputation of disingenuousness, and of avoiding to specify the causes of these dissensions, from a determination on his part not to give his sanction to the proceedings at Nicæa. Yet as we ourselves have discovered from various letters which the bishops wrote to one another after the Synod, the term homoousios troubled some of them. So that while they occupied themselves in a too minute investigation of its import, they roused the strife against each other; it seemed not unlike a contest in the dark; for neither party appeared to understand distinctly the grounds on which they calumniated one another. Those who objected to the word homoousios, conceived that those who approved it favored the opinion of Sabellius and Montanus; they therefore called them blasphemers, as subverting the existence of the Son of God. And again the advocates of this term, charging their opponents with polytheism, inveighed against them as introducers of heathen superstitions. Eustathius, bishop of Antioch, accuses Eusebius Pamphilus of perverting the Nicene Creed; Eusebius again denies that he violates that exposition of the faith, and recriminates, saying that Eustathius was a defender of the opinion of Sabellius. In consequence of these misunderstandings, each of them wrote as if contending against adversaries: and although it was admitted on both sides that the Son of God has a distinct person and existence, and all acknowledged that there is one God in three Persons, yet from what cause I am unable to divine, they could not agree among themselves, and therefore could in no way endure to be at peace.
Having therefore convened a Synod at Antioch, they deposed Eustathius, as a supporter of the Sabellian heresy, rather than of the tenets which the council at Nicæa had formulated. As some affirm [this measure was taken] for other and unsatisfactory reasons, though none other have been openly assigned: this is a matter of common occurrence; the bishops are accustomed to do this in all cases, accusing and pronouncing impious those whom they depose, but not explaining their warrant for so doing. George, bishop of Laodicea in Syria, one of the number of those who abominated the term homoousios, assures us in his Encomium of Eusebius Emisenus, that they deposed Eustathius as favoring Sabellianism, on the impeachment of Cyrus, bishop of Berœa. Of Eusebius Emisenus we shall speak elsewhere in due order. George has written of Eustathius [somewhat inconsistently]; for after asserting that he was accused by Cyrus of maintaining the heresy of Sabellius, he tells us again that Cyrus himself was convicted of the same error, and degraded for it. Now how was it possible that Cyrus should accuse Eustathius as a Sabellian, when he inclined to Sabellianism himself? It appears likely therefore that Eustathius must have been condemned on other grounds. At that time, however, there arose a dangerous sedition at Antioch on account of his deposition: for when they proceeded to the election of a successor, so fierce a dissension was kindled, as to threaten the whole city with destruction. The populace was divided into two factions, one of which vehemently contended for the translation of Eusebius Pamphilus from Cæsarea in Palestine to Antioch; the other equally insisted on the reinstatement of Eustathius. And the populace of the city were infected with the spirit of partisanship in this quarrel among the Christians, a military force was arrayed on both sides with hostile intent, so that a bloody collision would have taken place, had not God and the dread of the emperor repressed the violence of the multitude. For the emperor through letters, and Eusebius by refusing to accept the bishopric, served to allay the ferment: on which account that prelate was exceedingly admired by the emperor, who wrote to him commending his prudent determination, and congratulating him as one who was considered worthy of being bishop not of one city merely, but of almost the whole world. Consequently it is said that the episcopal chair of the church at Antioch was vacant for eight consecutive years after this period; but at length by the exertions of those who aimed at the subversion of the Nicene creed, Euphronius was duly installed. This is the amount of my information respecting the Synod held at Antioch on account of Eustathius. Immediately after these events Eusebius, who had long before left Berytus, and was at that time presiding over the church at Nicomedia, strenuously exerted himself in connection to those of his party, to bring back Arius to Alexandria. But how they managed to effect this, and by what means the emperor was prevailed on to admit both Arius and with him Euzoïus into his presence must now be related.
The Emperor Constantine had a sister named Constantia, the widow of Licinius, who had for some time shared the imperial dignity with Constantine, but had assumed tyrannical powers and had been put to death in consequence. This princess maintained in her household establishment a certain confidential presbyter, tinctured with the dogmas of Arianism; Eusebius and others having prompted him, he took occasion in his familiar conversations with Constantia, to insinuate that the Synod had done Arius injustice, and that the common report concerning him was not true. Constantia gave full credence to the presbyter's assertions, but dared not report them to the emperor. Now it happened that she became dangerously ill, and her brother visited her daily. As the disease became aggravated and she expected to die, she commended this presbyter to the emperor, testifying to his diligence and piety, as well as his devoted loyalty to his sovereign. She died soon after, whereupon the presbyter became one of the most confidential persons about the emperor; and having gradually increased in freedom of speech, he repeated to the emperor what he had before stated to his sister, affirming that Arius had no other views than the sentiments avowed by the Synod; and that if he were admitted to the imperial presence, he would give his full assent to what the Synod had decreed: he added, moreover, that he had been unreasonably slandered. The presbyter's words appeared strange to the emperor, and he said, 'If Arius subscribes with the Synod and holds its views, I will both give him an audience, and send him back to Alexandria with honor.' Having thus said, he immediately wrote to him in these words:
' Victor Constantine Maximus Augustus, to Arius.'
It was intimated to your reverence some time since, that you might come to my court, in order to obtain an interview with us. We are not a little surprised that you did not do this immediately. Wherefore having at once mounted a public vehicle, hasten to arrive at our court; that when you have experienced our clemency and regard for you, you may return to your own country. May God protect you, beloved. Dated the twenty-fifth of November.
This was the letter of the emperor to Arius. And I cannot but admire the ardent zeal which the prince manifested for religion: for it appears from this document that he had often before exhorted Arius to change his views, inasmuch as he censures his delaying to return to the truth, although he had himself written frequently to him. Now on the receipt of this letter, Arius came to Constantinople accompanied by Euzoïus, whom Alexander had divested of his deaconship when he excommunicated Arius and his partisans. The emperor accordingly admitted them to his presence, and asked them whether they would agree to the creed. And when they readily gave their assent, he ordered them to deliver to him a written statement of their faith.
They having drawn up a declaration to the following effect, presented it to the emperor.
'Arius and Euzoïus, to our Most Religious and Pious Lord, the Emperor Constantine.
'We believe in one God the Father Almighty: and in the Lord Jesus Christ his Son, who was begotten of him before all ages, God the Word through whom all things were made, both those which are in the heavens and those upon the earth; who descended, and became incarnate, and suffered, and rose again, ascended into the heavens, and will again come to judge the living and the dead. [We believe] also in the Holy Spirit, and in the resurrection of the flesh, and in the life of the coming age, and in the kingdom of the heavens, and in one Catholic Church of God, extending from one end of the earth to the other.
'This faith we have received from the holy gospels, the Lord therein saying to his disciples: Matthew 28:9
Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. If we do not so believe and truly receive the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as the whole Catholic Church and the holy Scriptures teach (in which we believe in every respect), God is our judge both now, and in the coming judgment. Wherefore we beseech your piety, most devout emperor, that we who are persons consecrated to the ministry, and holding the faith and sentiments of the church and of the holy Scriptures, may by your pacific and devoted piety be reunited to our mother, the Church, all superfluous questions and disputings being avoided: that so both we and the whole church being at peace, may in common offer our accustomed prayers for your tranquil reign, and on behalf of your whole family.'
Arius having thus satisfied the emperor, returned to Alexandria. But his artifice for suppressing the truth did not succeed; for on his arrival at Alexandria, as Athanasius would not receive him, but turned away from him as a pest, he attempted to excite a fresh commotion in that city by disseminating his heresy. Then indeed both Eusebius himself wrote, and prevailed on the emperor also to write, in order that Arius and his partisans might be readmitted into the church. Athanasius nevertheless wholly refused to receive them, and wrote to inform the emperor in reply, that it was impossible for those who had once rejected the faith, and had been anathematized, to be again received into communion on their return. But the emperor, provoked at this answer, menaced Athanasius in these terms:
'Since you have been apprised of my will, afford unhindered access into the church to all those who are desirous of entering it. For if it shall be intimated to me that you have prohibited any of those claiming to be reunited to the church, or have hindered their admission, I will immediately send some one who at my command shall depose you, and drive you into exile.'
The emperor wrote thus from a desire of promoting the public good, and because he did not wish to see the church ruptured; for he labored earnestly to bring them all into harmony. Then indeed the partisans of Eusebius, ill-disposed towards Athanasius, imagining they had found a seasonable opportunity, welcomed the emperor's displeasure as an auxiliary to their own purpose: and on this account they raised a great disturbance, endeavoring to eject him from his bishopric; for they entertained the hope that the Arian doctrine would prevail only upon the removal of Athanasius. The chief conspirators against him were Eusebius bishop of Nicomedia, Theognis of Nicæa, Maris of Chalcedon, Ursacius of Singidnum in Upper Mœsia, and Valens of Mursa in Upper Pannonia. These persons suborn by bribes certain of the Melitian heresy to fabricate various charges against Athanasius; and first they accuse him through the Melitians Ision, Eudæmon and Callinicus, of having ordered the Egyptians to pay a linen garment as tribute to the church at Alexandria. But this calumny was immediately disproved by Alypius and Macarius, presbyters of the Alexandrian church, who then happened to be at Nicomedia; they having convinced the emperor that these statements to the prejudice of Athanasius were false. Wherefore the emperor by letter severely censured his accusers, but urged Athanasius to come to him. But before he came the Eusebian faction anticipating his arrival, added to their former accusation the charge of another crime of a still more serious nature than the former; charging Athanasius with plotting against his sovereign, and with having sent for treasonable purposes a chest full of gold to one Philumenus. When, however, the emperor had himself investigated this matter at Psamathia, which is in the suburbs of Nicomedia, and had found Athanasius innocent, he dismissed him with honor; and wrote with his own hand to the church at Alexandria to assure them that their bishop had been falsely accused. It would indeed have been both proper and desirable to have passed over in silence the subsequent attacks which the Eusebians made upon Athanasius, lest from these circumstances the Church of Christ should be judged unfavorably of by those who are adverse to its interests. But since having been already committed to writing, they have become known to everybody, I have on that account deemed it necessary to make as cursory allusion to these things as possible, the particulars of which would require a special treatise. Whence the slanderous accusation originated, and the character of those who devised it, I shall now therefore state in brief. Mareotes is a district of Alexandria; there are contained in it very many villages, and an abundant population, with numerous splendid churches; these churches are all under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Alexandria, and are subject to his city as parishes. There was in this region a person named Ischyras, who had been guilty of an act deserving of many deaths; for although he had never been admitted to holy orders, he had the audacity to assume the title of presbyter, and to exercise sacred functions belonging to the priesthood. But having been detected in his sacrilegious career, he made his escape thence and sought refuge in Nicomedia, where he implored the protection of the party of Eusebius; who from their hatred to Athanasius, not only received him as a presbyter, but even promised to confer upon him the dignity of the episcopacy, if he would frame an accusation against Athanasius, listening as a pretext for this to whatever stories Ischyras had invented. For he spread a report that he had suffered dreadfully in consequence of an assault; and that Macarius had rushed furiously toward the altar, had overturned the table, and broken a mystical cup: he added also that he had burnt the sacred books. As a reward for this accusation, the Eusebian faction, as I have said, promised him a bishopric; foreseeing that the charges against Macarius would involve, along with the accused party, Athanasius, under whose orders he would seem to have acted. But this charge they formulated later; before it they devised another full of the bitterest malignity, to which I shall now advert. Having by some means, I know not what, obtained a man's hand; whether they themselves had murdered any one, and cut off his hand, or had severed it from some dead body, God knows and the authors of the deed: but be that as it may, they publicly exposed it as the hand of Arsenius, a Melitian bishop, while they kept the alleged owner of it concealed. This hand, they asserted, had been made use of by Athanasius in the performance of certain magic arts; and therefore it was made the gravest ground of accusation which these calumniators had concerted against him: but as it generally happens, all those who entertained any pique against Athanasius came forward at the same time with a variety of other charges. When the emperor was informed of these proceedings, he wrote to his nephew Dalmatius the censor, who then had his residence at Antioch in Syria, directing him to order the accused parties to be brought before him, and after due investigation, to inflict punishment on such as might be convicted. He also sent there Eusebius and Theognis, that the case might be tried in their presence. When Athanasius knew that he was to be summoned before the censor, he sent into Egypt to make a strict search after Arsenius; and he ascertained indeed that he was secreted there, but was unable to apprehend him, because he often changed his place of concealment. Meanwhile the emperor suppressed the trial which was to have been held before the censor, on the following account.
The emperor had ordered a Synod of bishops to be present at the consecration of the church which he had erected at Jerusalem. He therefore directed that, as a secondary matter, they should on their way first assemble at Tyre, to examine into the charges against Athanasius; in order that all cause of contention being removed there, they might the more peacefully perform the inaugural ceremonies in the dedication of the church of God. This was the thirtieth year of Constantine's reign, and sixty bishops were thus convened at Tyre from various places, on the summons of Dionysius the consul. As to Macarius the presbyter, he was conducted from Alexandria in chains, under a military escort; while Athanasius was unwilling to go there, not so much from dread, because he was innocent of the charges made, as because he feared lest any innovations should be made on the decisions of the council at Nicæa; he was, however, constrained to be present by the menacing letters of the emperor. For it had been written him that if he did not come voluntarily, he should be brought by force.
The special providence of God drove Arsenius also to Tyre; for, disregarding the injunctions he had received from the accusers who had bribed him, he went there disguised to see what would be done. It by some means happened that the servants of Archelaus, the governor of the province, heard some persons at an inn affirm that Arsenius, who was reported to have been murdered, was concealed in the house of one of the citizens. Having heard this and marked the individuals by whom this statement was made, they communicated the information to their master, who causing strict search to be made for the man immediately, discovered and properly secured him; after which he gave notice to Athanasius that he need not be under any alarm, inasmuch as Arsenius was alive and there present. Arsenius on being apprehended, at first denied that he was the person; but Paul, bishop of Tyre, who had formerly known him, established his identity. Divine providence having thus disposed matters, Athanasius was shortly after summoned by the Synod; and as soon as he presented himself, his traducers exhibited the hand, and pressed their charge. He managed the affair with great prudence, for he enquired of those present, as well as of his accusers, who were the persons who knew Arsenius? And several having answered that they knew him, he caused Arsenius to be introduced, having his hands covered by his cloak. Then he again asked them, 'Is this the person who has lost a hand?' All were astonished at the unexpectedness of this procedure, except those who knew whence the hand had been cut off; for the rest thought that Arsenius was really deficient of a hand, and expected that the accused would make his defense in some other way. But Athanasius turning back the cloak of Arsenius on one side showed one of the man's hands; again, while some were supposing that the other hand was wanting, permitting them to remain a short time in doubt afterward he turned back the cloak on the other side and exposed the other hand. Then addressing himself to those present, he said, 'Arsenius, as you see, is found to have two hands: let my accusers show the place whence the third was cut off.'
Matters having been brought to this issue with regard to Arsenius, the contrivers of this imposture were reduced to perplexity; and Achab, who was also called John, one of the principal accusers, having slipped out of court in the tumult, effected his escape. Thus Athanasius cleared himself from this charge, without having recourse to any pleading; for he was confident that the sight only of Arsenius alive would confound his calumniators.
But in refuting the false allegations against Macarius, he made use of legal forms; taking exception in the first place to Eusebius and his party, as his enemies, protesting against the injustice of any man's being tried by his adversaries. He next insisted on its being proved that his accuser Ischyras had really obtained the dignity of presbyter; for so he had been designated in the indictment. But as the judges would not allow any of these objections, the case of Macarius was entered into, and the informers being found deficient of proofs, the hearing of the matter was postponed, until some persons should have gone into Mareotis, in order that all doubtful points might be examined on the spot. Athanasius seeing that those very individuals were to be sent to whom he had taken exception (for the persons sent were Theognis, Maris, Theodorus, Macedonius, Valens, and Ursacius), exclaimed that 'their procedure was both treacherous and fraudulent; for that it was unjust that the presbyter Macarius should be detained in bonds, while the accuser together with the judges who were his adversaries, were permitted to go, in order that an ex parte collection of the facts in evidence might be made.' Having made this protest before the whole Synod and Dionysius the governor of the province, and finding that no one paid any attention to his appeal, he privately withdrew. Those, therefore, who were sent to Mareotis, having made an ex parte investigation, held that what the accuser said was true.
Thus Athanasius departed, hastening to the emperor, and the Synod in the first place condemned him in his absence; and when the result of the enquiry which had been instituted at Mareotis was presented, they voted to depose him; loading him with opprobrious epithets in their sentence of deposition, but being wholly silent respecting the disgraceful defeat of the charge of murder brought by his calumniators. They moreover received into communion Arsenius, who was reported to have been murdered; and he who had formerly been a bishop of the Melitian heresy subscribed to the deposition of Athanasius as bishop of the city of Hypselopolis. Thus by an extraordinary course of circumstances, the alleged victim of assassination by Athanasius, was found alive to assist in deposing him.
Letters in the meantime were brought from the emperor directing those who composed the Synod to hasten to the New Jerusalem: having therefore immediately left Tyre, they set forward with all dispatch to Jerusalem, where, after celebrating a festival in connection with the consecration of the place, they readmitted Arius and his adherents into communion, in obedience, as they said, to the wishes of the emperor, who had signified in his communication to them, that he was fully satisfied respecting the faith of Arius and Euzoïus. They moreover wrote to the church at Alexandria, stating that all envy being now banished, the affairs of the church were established in peace: and that since Arius had by his recantation acknowledged the truth, it was but just that, being thenceforth a member of the church, he should also be henceforth received by them, alluding to the banishment of Athanasius [in their statement that 'all envy was now banished']. At the same time they sent information of what had been done to the emperor, in terms nearly to the same effect. But while the bishops were engaged in these transactions, other letters came unexpectedly from the emperor, intimating that Athanasius had fled to him for protection; and that it was necessary for them on his account to come to Constantinople. This unanticipated communication from the emperor was as follows.
I am indeed ignorant of the decisions which have been made by your Council with so much turbulence and storm: but the truth seems to have been perverted by some tumultuous and disorderly proceedings: because, that is to say, in your mutual love of contention, which you seem desirous of perpetuating, you disregard the consideration of those things which are acceptable to God. It will, however, I trust, be the work of Divine Providence to dissipate the mischiefs resulting from this jealous rivalry, as soon as they shall have been detected; and to make it apparent to us, whether ye who have been convened have had regard to truth, and whether your decisions on the subjects which have been submitted to your judgment have been made apart from partiality or prejudice. Wherefore it is indispensable that you should all without delay attend upon my piety, that you may yourselves give a strict account of your transactions. For what reason I have deemed it proper to write thus, and to summon you before me, you will learn from what follows. As I was making my entry into the city which bears our name, in this our most flourishing home, Constantinople,— and it happened that I was riding on horseback at the time,— suddenly the Bishop Athanasius, with certain ecclesiastics whom he had around him, presented himself so unexpectedly in our path, as to produce an occasion of consternation. For the Omniscient God is my witness that at first sight I did not recognize him until some of my attendants, in answer to my enquiry, informed me, as was very natural, both who he was, and what injustice he had suffered. At that time indeed I neither conversed, nor held any communication with him. But as he repeatedly entreated an audience, and I had not only refused it, but almost ordered that he should be removed from my presence, he said with greater boldness, that he petitioned for nothing more than that you might be summoned hither, in order that in our presence, he, driven by necessity to such a course, might have a fair opportunity afforded him of complaining of his wrongs. Wherefore as this seems reasonable, and consistent with the equity of my government, I willingly gave instructions that these things should be written to you. My command therefore is, that all, as many as composed the Synod convened at Tyre, should immediately hasten to the court of our clemency, in order that from the facts themselves you may make clear the purity and integrity of your decision in my presence, whom you cannot but own to be a true servant of God. It is in consequence of the acts of my religious service towards God that peace is everywhere reigning; and that the name of God is sincerely had in reverence even among the barbarians themselves, who until now were ignorant of the truth. Now it is evident that he who knows not the truth, does not have a true knowledge of God also: yet, as I before said even the barbarians on my account, who am a genuine servant of God, have acknowledged and learned to worship him, whom they have perceived in very deed protecting and caring for me everywhere. So that from dread of us chiefly, they have been thus brought to the knowledge of the true God whom they now worship. Nevertheless we who pretend to have a religious veneration for (I will not say who guard) the holy mysteries of his church, we, I say, do nothing but what tends to discord and animosity, and to speak plainly, to the destruction of the human race. But hasten, as I have already said, all of you to us as speedily as possible: and be assured that I shall endeavor with all my power to cause that what is contained in the Divine Law may be preserved inviolate, on which neither stigma nor reproach shall be able to fasten itself; and this will come to pass when its enemies, who under cover of the sacred profession introduce numerous and diversified blasphemies, are dispersed, broken to pieces, and altogether annihilated.
This letter rendered those who constituted the Synod very fearful, wherefore most of them returned to their respective cities. But Eusebius, Theognis, Maris, Patrophilus, Ursacius, and Valens, having gone to Constantinople, would not permit any further enquiry to be instituted concerning the broken cup, the overturned communion table, and the murder of Arsenius; but they had recourse to another calumny, informing the emperor that Athanasius had threatened to prohibit the sending of grain which was usually conveyed from Alexandria to Constantinople. They affirmed also that these menaces were heard from the lips of Athanasius by the bishops Adamantius, Anubion, Arbathion and Peter, for slander is most prevalent when of the assertor of it appears to be a person worthy of credit. Hence the emperor being deceived, and excited to indignation against Athanasius by this charge, at once condemned him to exile, ordering him to reside in the Gauls. Now some affirm that the emperor came to this decision with a view to the establishment of unity in the church, since Athanasius was inexorable in his refusal to hold any communion with Arius and his adherents. He accordingly took up his abode at Treves, a city of Gaul.
The bishops assembled at Constantinople deposed also Marcellus bishop of Ancyra, a city of Galatia Minor, on this account. A certain rhetorician of Cappadocia named Asterius having abandoned his art, and professed himself a convert to Christianity, undertook the composition of some treatises, which are still extant, in which he commended the dogmas of Arius; asserting that Christ is the power of God, in the same sense as the locust and the palmer-worm are said by Moses to be the power of God, Joel 2:25 with other similar utterances. Now Asterius was in constant association with the bishops, and especially with those of their number who did not discountenance the Arian doctrine: he also attended their Synods, in the hope of insinuating himself into the bishopric of some city: but he failed to obtain ordination, in consequence of having sacrificed during the persecution. Going therefore throughout the cities of Syria, he read in public the books which he had composed. Marcellus being informed of this, and wishing to counteract his influence, in his over-anxiety to confute him, fell into the diametrically opposite error; for he dared to say, as the Samosatene had done, that Christ was a mere man. When the bishops then convened at Jerusalem had intelligence of these things, they took no notice of Asterius, because he was not enrolled even in the catalogue of ordained priests; but they insisted that Marcellus, as a priest, should give an account of the book which he had written. Finding that he entertained Paul of Samosata's sentiments, they required him to retract his opinion; and he being thoroughly ashamed of himself, promised to burn his book. But the convention of bishops being hastily dissolved by the emperor's summoning them to Constantinople, the Eusebians on their arrival at that city, again took the case of Marcellus into consideration; and as Marcellus refused to fulfil his promise of burning his untimely book, those present deposed him, and sent Basil into Ancyra in his stead. Moreover Eusebius wrote a refutation of this work in three books, in which he exposed its erroneous doctrine. Marcellus however was afterwards reinstated in his bishopric by the Synod at Sardica, on his assurance that his book had been misunderstood, and that on that account he was supposed to favor the Samosatene's views. But of this we shall speak more fully in its proper place.
While these things were taking place, the thirtieth year of Constantine's reign was completed. But Arius with his adherents having returned to Alexandria, again disturbed the whole city; for the people of Alexandria were exceedingly indignant both at the restoration of this incorrigible heretic with his partisans, and also because their bishop Athanasius had been sent to exile. When the emperor was apprised of the perverse disposition of Arius, he once more ordered him to repair to Constantinople, to give an account of the commotions he had afresh endeavored to excite. It happened at that time that Alexander, who had some time before succeeded Metrophanes, presided over the church at Constantinople. That this prelate was a man of devoted piety was distinctly manifested by the conflict he entered into with Arius; for when Arius arrived and the people were divided into two factions and the whole city was thrown into confusion: some insisting that the Nicene Creed should be by no means infringed on, while others contended that the opinion of Arius was consonant to reason. In this state of affairs, Alexander was driven to straits: more especially since Eusebius of Nicomedia had violently threatened that he would cause him to be immediately deposed, unless he admitted Arius and his followers to communion. Alexander, however, was far less troubled at the thought of his own deposition as fearful of the subversion of the principles of the faith, which they were so anxious to effect: and regarding himself as the constituted guardian of the doctrines recognized, and the decisions made by the council at Nicæa, he exerted himself to the utmost to prevent their being violated or depraved. Reduced to this extremity, he bade farewell to all logical resources, and made God his refuge, devoting himself to continued fasting and never ceased from praying. Communicating his purpose to no one, he shut himself up alone in the church called Irene: there going up to the altar, and prostrating himself on the ground beneath the holy communion table, he poured forth his fervent prayers weeping; and this he ceased not to do for many successive nights and days. What he thus earnestly asked from God, he received: for his petition was such a one: 'If the opinion of Arius were correct, he might not be permitted to see the day appointed for its discussion; but that if he himself held the true faith, Arius, as the author of all these evils, might suffer the punishment due to his impiety.'
Such was the supplication of Alexander. Meanwhile the emperor, being desirous of personally examining Arius, sent for him to the palace, and asked him whether he would assent to the determinations of the Synod at Nicæa. He without hesitation replied in the affirmative, and subscribed the declaration of the faith in the emperor's presence, acting with duplicity. The emperor, surprised at his ready compliance, obliged him to confirm his signature by an oath. This also he did with equal dissimulation. The way he evaded, as I have heard, was this: he wrote his own opinion on paper, and carried it under his arm, so that he then swore truly that he really held the sentiments he had written. That this is so, however, I have written from hearsay, but that he added an oath to his subscription, I have myself ascertained, from an examination of the emperor's own letters. The emperor being thus convinced, ordered that he should be received into communion by Alexander, bishop of Constantinople. It was then Saturday, and Arius was expecting to assemble with the church on the day following: but divine retribution overtook his daring criminalities. For going out of the imperial palace, attended by a crowd of Eusebian partisans like guards, he paraded proudly through the midst of the city, attracting the notice of all the people. As he approached the place called Constantine's Forum, where the column of porphyry is erected, a terror arising from the remorse of conscience seized Arius, and with the terror a violent relaxation of the bowels: he therefore enquired whether there was a convenient place near, and being directed to the back of Constantine's Forum, he hastened there. Soon after a faintness came over him, and together with the evacuations his bowels protruded, followed by a copious hemorrhage, and the descent of the smaller intestines: moreover portions of his spleen and liver were brought off in the effusion of blood, so that he almost immediately died. The scene of this catastrophe still is shown at Constantinople, as I have said, behind the shambles in the colonnade: and by persons going by pointing the finger at the place, there is a perpetual remembrance preserved of this extraordinary kind of death. So disastrous an occurrence filled with dread and alarm the party of Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia; and the report of it quickly spread itself over the city and throughout the whole world. As the king grew more earnest in Christianity and confessed that the confession at Nicæa was attested by God, he rejoiced at the occurrences. He was also glad because of his three sons whom he had already proclaimed Cæsars; one of each of them having been created at every successive decennial anniversary of his reign. To the eldest, whom he called Constantine, after his own name, he assigned the government of the western parts of the empire, on the completion of his first decade. His second son Constantius, who bore his grandfather's name, he constituted Cæsar in the eastern division, when the second decade had been completed. And Constans, the youngest, he invested with a similar dignity, in the thirtieth year of his own reign.
A year having passed, the Emperor Constantine having just entered the sixty-fifth year of his age, was taken with a sickness; he therefore left Constantinople, and made a voyage to Helenopolis, that he might try the effect of the medicinal hot springs which are found in the vicinity of that city. Perceiving, however, that his illness increased, he deferred the use of the baths; and removing from Helenopolis to Nicomedia, he took up his residence in the suburbs, and there received Christian baptism. After this he became cheerful; and making his will, appointed his three sons heirs to the empire, allotting to each one of them his portion, in accordance with the arrangements he had made while living. He also granted many privileges to the cities of Rome and Constantinople; and entrusting the custody of his will to that presbyter by whose means Arius had been recalled, and of whom we have already made mention, he charged him to deliver it into no one's hand, except that of his son Constantius, to whom he had given the sovereignty of the East. After the making of his will, he survived a few days and died. Of his sons none were present at his death. A courier was therefore immediately dispatched into the East, to inform Constantius of his father's decease.
The body of the emperor was placed in a coffin of gold by the proper persons, and then conveyed to Constantinople, where it was laid out on an elevated bed of state in the palace, surrounded by a guard, and treated with the same respect as when he was alive, and this was done until the arrival of one of his sons. When Constantius had come out of the eastern parts of the empire, it was honored with an imperial sepulture, and deposited in the church called The Apostles: which he had caused to be constructed for this very purpose, that the emperors and prelates might receive a degree of veneration but little inferior to that which was paid to the relics of the apostles. The Emperor Constantine lived sixty-five years, and reigned thirty-one. He died in the consulate of Felician and Tatian, on the twenty-second of May, in the second year of the 278th Olympiad. This book, therefore, embraces a period of thirty-one years.
Source. Translated by A.C. Zenos. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 2. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/26011.htm>.
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