« PreviousContinue »
he ascribed to Eudoxius. The latter, when questioned, disowned it; and named Aetius as its author, who was immediately summoned. Introduced into the Imperial presence, he was unable to divine, in spite of his natural acuteness, whether the Emperor was pleased or displeased with the composition; and, hazarding an acknowledgment of it, he drew down on himself the full indignation of Constantius, who banished him into Cilicia, and obliged his patron Eudoxius to anathematize both the confession in question, and all the positions of the pure Arian heresy. Such was the fall of Aetius, at the time of the triumph of the Eusebians; but soon afterwards he was promoted to the episcopate (under what circumstances is unknown), and was favourably noticed, as a former friend of Gallus, by the Emperor Julian, who gave him a territory in the Island of Mitelene.
Eunomius, his disciple, escaped the jealousy of Constantius through the good offices of Eudoxius, and was advanced to the Bishoprick of Cyzicus ; but, being impatient of dissimulation, he soon fell into disgrace, and was banished. The death of the Emperor took place at the end of A.D. 361; his last acts evincing a further approximation to the unmitigated heresy of Arius. At a Council held at Antioch in the course of that year, he sanctioned the Anoman doctrine in its most revolting form ; and shortly before his decease, received the sacrament of baptism, as has been stated above, from Euzoius, the personal friend and original associate of Arius himselfs.
[“At this critical moment Constantius died, when the cause of truth was only not in the lowest state of degradation, because a party was in authority and vigour who could reduce it to a lower still; the Latins committed to an Anti-Catholic creed, the Pope a renegade, Hosius fallen and dead, Athanasius wandering in the deserts, Arians in the sees of Christendom, and their doctrine growing in blasphemy, and their profession of it in boldness, every day. The Emperor had come to the throne when almost a boy, and at this time was but forty-four years old. In the ordinary course of things, he might have reigned till orthodoxy, humanly speaking, was extinct.” Ath. Tr. p. 127, e.]
The accession of Julian was followed by a general restoration of the banished Bishops; and all eyes throughout Christendom were at once turned towards Alexandria, as the Church, which, by its sufferings and its indomitable spirit, had claim to be the arbiter of doctrine, and the guarantee of peace to the Catholic world. Athanasius, as the story goes, was, on the death of his persecutor, suddenly found on his episcopal throne in one of the Churches of Alexandria'; a legend, happily expressive of the unwearied activity and almost ubiquity of that extraordinary man, who, while a price was set on his head, mingled unperceived in the proceedings at Seleucia and Ariminum?, and directed the movements of
i Cave, Life of Athan. x. 9.
[This is doubtful; vide Athan. Tr. p. 73, b.]
his fellow-labourers by his writings, when he was debarred the exercise of his dexterity in debate, and his persuasive energy in private conversation. soon joined by his fellow-exile, Eusebius of Vercellæ ; Lucifer, who had journeyed with the latter from the Upper Thebaid, on his return to the West, having gone forward to Antioch on business which will presently be explained. Meanwhile, no time was lost in holding a Council at Alexandria (A.D. 362) on the general state of the Church.
The object of Julian in recalling the banished Bishops, was the renewal of those dissensions, by means of toleration, which Constantius had endeavoured to terminate by force. He knew these prelates to be of various opinions, Semi-Arians, Macedonians, Anomoeans, as well as orthodox ; and, determining to be neuter himself, he waited with the satisfaction of an Eclectic for the event; being persuaded, that Christianity could not withstand the shock of parties, not less discordant, and far more zealous, than the sects of philosophy. It is even said that he “invited to his palace the leaders of the hostile sects, that he might enjoy the agreeable spectacle of their furious encounters 3.” But, in indulging such anticipations of overthrowing Christianity, he but displayed his own ignorance of the foundation on which it was built. It could scarcely be conceived, that an unbeliever, educated among heretics, would understand the vigour and indestructibility of the true Christian spirit; and Julian fell into the error, to which in all ages men of the world are exposed, of mistaking whatever shows itself on the surface of the Apostolic Community, its prominences and irregularities, all that is extravagant, and all that is transitory, for the real moving principle and life of the system. It is trying times alone that manifest the saints of God; but they live notwithstanding, and support the Church in their generation, though they remain in their obscurity. In the days of Arianism, indeed, they were in their measure, revealed to the world; still to such as Julian, they were unavoidably unknown, both in respect to their numbers and their divine gifts. The thousand of silent believers, who worshipped in spirit and in truth, were obscured by the tens and twenties of the various heretical factions, whose clamorous addresses besieged the Imperial Court; and Athanasius would be portrayed to Julian's imagination after the picture of his own preceptor, the time-serving and unscrupulous Eusebius. The event of his experiment refuted the opinion which led to it. The impartial toleration of all religious persuasions, malicious as was its intent, did but contribute to the ascendancy of the right faith ; that faith, which is the only true aliment of the human mind, which can be held as a principle as well as an opinion, and which influences the heart to suffer and to labour for its sake.
3 Gibbon, ch, xxiii.