« PreviousContinue »
the above; and, as some say, a still more frivolous accusation of incontinence, but whether this was ever brought, is more than doubtful.
Cæsarea and Tyre were places too public even for the audacity of the Eusebians, when the facts of the case were so plainly in favour of the accused. It was now proposed that a commission of inquiry should be sent to the Mareotis, which was in the neighbourhood, and formed part of the diocese, of Alexandria, and was the scene of the alleged profanation of the sacred chalice. The leading members of this commission were Valens and Ursacius, Theognis, Maris, and two others, all Eusebians; they took with them the chief accuser of Athanasius as their guide and host, leaving Athanasius and Macarius at Tyre, and refusing admittance into the court of inquiry to such of the clergy of the Mareotis, as were desirous of defending their Bishop's interests in his absence. The issue of such proceedings may be anticipated. On the return of the commission to Tyre, Athanasius was formally condemned of rebellion, sedition, and a tyrannical use of his episcopal power, of murder, sacrilege, and magic; was deposed from the see of Alexandria, and prohibited from ever returning to that city. Constantine confirmed the sentence of the Council, and Athanasius was banished to Gaul.
3. It has often been remarked that persecutions of Christians, as in St. Paul's case, “fall out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel ®." The dispersion of the disciples, after the martyrdom of St. Stephen, introduced the word of truth together with themselves among the Samaritans; and in the case before us, the exile of Athanasius led to his introduction to the younger Constantine, son of the great Emperor of that name, who warmly embraced his cause, and gave him the opportunity of rousing the zeal, and gaining the personal friendship of the Catholics of the West. Constans also, another son of Constantine, declared in his favour; and thus, on the death of their father, which took place two years after the Council of Tyre, one third alone of his power, in the person of the Semi-Arian Constantius, Emperor of the East, remained with that party, which, while Constantine lived, was able to wield the whole strength of the State against the orthodox Bishops. The support of the Roman See, was a still more important advantage gained by Athanasius. Rome was the natural mediator between Alexandria and Antioch, and at that time possessed extensive influence among the Churches of the West. Accordingly, when Constantius re-commenced the persecution, to which his father had been persuaded, the exiles betook themselves to Rome; and about the year 340 or 341 we read of Bishops from Thrace, Syria, Phænicia, and Palestine, collected there, besides a multitude of Presbyters, and among the former, Athanasius himself, Marcellus, Asclepas of Gaza, and Luke of Hadrianople. The first act of the Roman See in their favour was the holding a provincial Council, in which the charges against Athanasius and Marcellus were examined, and pronounced to be untenable. And its next act was to advocate the summoning of a Council of the whole Church with the same purpose, referring it to Athanasius to select a place of meeting, where his cause might be secure of a more impartial hearing, than it had met with at Cæsarea and Tyre.
8 Phil. i. 12.
The Eusebians, on the other hand, perceiving the danger which their interests would sustain, should a Council be held at any distance from their own peculiar territory, determined on anticipating the projected Council by one of their own, in which they might both confirm the sentence of deposition against Athanasius, and, if possible, contrive a confession of faith, to allay the suspicions which the Occidentals entertained of their orthodoxy'. This was the occasion of the Council of the Dedication, as it is called, held by them at Antioch, in the year 341, and which is one of the most celebrated Councils of the century. It was usual to solemnize the consecration of places of Worship, by an attendance of the principal prelates of the neighbouring districts; and the great Church of the Metropolis of Syria, called the Dominicum Aureum, which had just been built, afforded both the pretext and the name to their assembly. Between ninety and a hundred bishops came together on this occasion, all Arians or Arianizers, and agreed without difficulty upon the immediate object of the Council, the ratification of the Synods of Cæsarea and Tyre in condemnation of Athanasius.
So far their undertaking was in their own hands; but a more difficult task remained behind, viz. to gain the approval and consent of the Western Church, by an exposition of the articles of their faith. Not intending to bind themselves by the decision at Nicæa, they had to find some substitute for the Homoüsion. With this view four, or even five creeds, more or less resembling the Nicene in language, were successively adopted. The first was that ascribed to the martyr Lucian, though doubts are entertained concerning its genuineness. It is in itself almost unexceptionable; and, had there been no controversies on the subjects contained in it, would have been a satisfactory evidence of the orthodoxy of its promulgators. The Son is therein styled the exact Image of the substance, will, power, and glory of the Father; and the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity are said to be three in substance, one in will?. An evasive condemnation was added of the Arian tenets; suffi. cient, as it might seem, to delude the Latins, who were unskilled in the subtleties of the question. For instance, it was denied that our Lord was born “in time," but in the heretical school, as was shown above, time was supposed to commence with the creation of the world; and it was denied that He was "in the number of the creatures," it being their doctrine, that He was the sole immediate work of God, and, as such, not like others, but separate from the whole creation, of which indeed He was the author. Next, for some or other reason, two new creeds were proposed, and partially adopted by the Council; the same in character of doctrine, but shorter. These three were all circulated, and more or less received in the neighbouring Churches; but, on consideration, none of them seemed adequate to the object in view, that of recommending the Eusebians to the distant Churches of the West. Accordingly, a fourth formulary was drawn up after a few months' delay, among others by Mark, Bishop of Arethusa, a Semi-Arian Bishop of religious character, afterwards to be mentioned; its composers were deputed to present it to Constans; and, this creed proving unsatisfactory, a fifth confession was drawn up with considerable care and ability; though it too failed to quiet the suspicions of the Latins. This last is called the Macrostich, from the number of its paragraphs, and did not make its appearance till three years after the former.
9 [“ After the Nicene Council, the Eusebians did not dare avow their heresy in Constantine's time, but merely attempted the banishment of Athanasius, and the restoration of Arius. Their first Council was A.D. 341, four years after Constantine's death and Constantius's accession.” -Ath. Tr. p. 30, m.]
In truth, no such exposition of the Catholic faith could satisfy the Western Christians, while they were witnesses to the exile of its great champion on account of his fidelity to it. Here the Eusebians were wanting in their usual practical shrewdness. Words, however orthodox, could not weigh against so plain a fact. The Occidentals, however unskilled in the niceties of the Greek language, were able to ascertain the heresy of the Eusebians in their malevolence towards Athanasius. Nay, the anxious attempts of his enemies, to please them by means of a confession of faith, were a refutation of their pretences. For, inasmuch as the sense of the Catholic world, had already been recorded in the Homoäsion, why should they devise a new formulary, if after all they agreed with the Church? or, why should they themselves be so fertile in confessions, if they had all of