« PreviousContinue »
CHAP. IV. given him the government, they should not only look upon his sufferings as glorious, but, being willing to partake of his glory, they should also become his companions in banishment themselves. But that this matter related neither to God nor religion; that it concerned merely a private person, named Athanasius, whose cause had nothing in common with that of the Church, whom the public voice had long since accused of numberless crimes, whom Councils had condemned, and who had been turned out of his see by the great Constantine, whose judgment alone was sufficient to justify all that the East and West had so often pronounced against him. That, even if he were not so guilty as men made him, yet it was necessary to sacrifice him to the peace of the Church, and to throw him into the sea to appease the storm, which he was the occasion of raising; but that, the greater part of the Bishops having condemned him, the defending him would be causing a schism, and that it was a very uncommon sight to see the Roman prelate abandon the care of the Church, and banish himself into Thrace, to become the martyr of one, whom both divine and human justice had so often declared guilty. That it was high time to undeceive himself, and to open his eyes at last; to see, whether it was not passion in Athanasius, which gave a false alarm, and opposed an imaginary heresy, to make the world believe that they had a mind to establish error.”
The arguments, diffusively but instructively reported in the above extract, were enforced by the threat of death as the consequence of obstinacy; while, on the other hand, a temptation of a peculiar nature presented itself to the exiled bishop in his very popularity with the Roman people, which was such, that Constantius had already been obliged to promise them his restoration. Moreover, as if to give a reality to the inducements by which he was assailed, a specific plan of mutual concession and concord had been projected, in which Liberius was required to take part. The Western Catholics were, as we have seen, on all occasions requiring evidence of the orthodoxy of the Eusebians, before they consented to take part with them against Athanasius. Constantius then, desirous of ingratiating himself with the people of Rome, and himself a Semi-Arian, and at that time alarmed at the increasing boldness of the Anomoeans, or pure Arians, presently to be mentioned, perceived his opportunity for effecting a general acceptance of a Semi-Arian creed; and thus, while sacrificing the Anomeans, whom he feared, to the Catholics, and claiming from the Catholics in turn what were scarcely concessions, in the imperfect language of the West, for realizing that religious peace, which he held to be incompatible with the inflexible orthodoxy of Athanasius. Moreover, the heresies of Marcellus and Photinus were in favour of this scheme; for, by dwelling upon them, he withdrew the eyes of Catholics from the contrary errors of Semi-Arianism. A creed was compiled from three former confessions, that of the orthodox Council against Paulus (A.D. 264), that of the Dedication (A.D. 341), and one of the three published at Sirmium. Thus carefully composed, it was signed by all parties, by Liberius ', by the Semi-Arians, and by the Eusebians; the Eusebians being compelled by the Emperor to submit for the time to the dogmatic formulæ, which they had gradually abandoned. Were it desirable to enlarge on this miserable apostasy, there are abundant materials in the letters, which Liberius wrote in renunciation of Athanasius, to his clergy, and to the Arian bishops. To Valens he protests, that nothing but his love of peace, greater than his desire of martyrdom itself, would have led him to the step which he had taken; in another he declares, that he has but followed his conscience in God's sight. To add to his misery, Constantius suffered him for a while to linger in exile, after he had given way. At length he was restored ; and at Ariminum in a measure retrieved his error, together with Vincent of Capua.
4 Webster's translation is used : one or two irrelevent phrases, intro. duced by Maimbourg on the subject of Roman supremacy, being omitted.
The sufferings and trials of Hosius, which took place about the same time, are calculated to impress the mind with the most sorrowful feelings, and still more with a lively indignation against his inhuman persecutors. Shortly before the conference at Sirmium, at which Liberius gave his allegiance to the supremacy of SemiArianism, a creed had been drawn up in the same city by Valens and the other more daring members of the Eusebian body. It would seem, that at this date Constantius had not taken the alarm against the Anomæans, to the extent in which he felt it soon afterwards, on the news probably of their proceedings in the East. Accordingly, the creed in question is of a mixed character. Not venturing on the Anomoeon, as at Milan, it nevertheless condemns the use of the usia (substance), Homoüsion, and Homæüsion, on somewhat of the equivocal plan, of which Acacius, as I have said above, was the most conspicuous patron; and being such, it was presented for signature to the aged Bishop of Corduba. The cruelty which they exercised to accomplish their purpose, was worthy of that singularly wicked faction which Eusebius had organized. Hosius was at this time 101 years old; and had passed a life, prolonged beyond the age of man, in services and sufferings in the cause of Christ. He had assisted in the celebrated Council of Elvira, in Spain (about the year 300), and had been distinguished as a confessor in the Maximinian persecution. He presided at the General Councils of Nicæa and Sardica, and was perhaps the only Bishop, besides Athanasius, who was known and reverenced at once in the East and West. When Constantius became possessed of the Western world, far from relaxing his zeal in a cause discountenanced at the Court, Hosius had exerted himself in his own diocese for the orthodox faith; and, when the persecution began, endeavoured by letter to rouse other bishops to a sense of the connexion between the acquittal of Athanasius, and the maintenance of divine truth. The Eusebians were irritated by his opposition; he was summoned to the Court at Milan, and, after a vain attempt to shake his constancy, dismissed back to his see. The importunities of Constantius being shortly after renewed,
5 [Vide supr. pp. 131. 294. 323. There is much difference of opinion, however, among writers, which was the creed which Liberius signed : vide Appendix, No. 3.]
6 Hilar. Fragm. iv. and vi.
both in the way of threats and of promises, Hosius addressed him an admirable letter, which Athanasius has preserved. After declaring his willingness to repeat, should it be necessary, the good confession which he had made in the heathen persecution, he exhorts the Emperor to abandon his unscriptural creed, and to turn his ear from Arian advisers. He states his conviction, that the condemnation of Athanasius was urged merely for the establishment of the heresy ; declares, that at Sardica his accusers had been challenged publicly to produce the proof of their allegations, and had failed, and that he himself had conversed with them in private, and could gain nothing satisfactory from them and he further reminds Constantius, that Valens and Ursacius had before now retracted the charges, which they once urged against him. “Change your course of action, I beseech you,” continues the earnest Prelate ; “ remember that you are a man.
Fear the day of judgment; keep your hands clean against it; meddle not with Church matters; far from advising us about them, rather seek instruction from us. God has put dominion into your hands; to us He has entrusted the management of the Church ; and, as a traitor to you is a rebel to the God who ordained you, so be afraid on your part, lest, usurping ecclesiastical power, you become guilty of a great sin. It is written, ‘Render unto Cæsar, Cæsar's, and what is God's, to God. We may not bear rule ; you, O Emperor, may not burn incense. I write this from a care for your soul. As to your message, I remain in the same mind. I do not join the Arians. I anathematize them. I do not subscribe the condemnation of