Page images

own resources.

and the Arian controversy had corrupted their spirit, where it had failed to impair their orthodoxy. Disputation was the rule of belief, and ambition of conduct, in the Eusebian school; and these evil introductions outlived its day. Patronized by the secular power, the great Churches of Christendom conceived a jealousy of each other, and gradually fortified themselves in their

As Athanasius drew towards his end, the task of mediation became more difficult. In spite of his desire to keep aloof from party, circumstances threw him against his will into one of the two divisions, which were beginning to discover themselves in the Christian world. Even before his time, traces appear of a rivalry between the Asiatic and Egyptian Churches. The events of his own day, developing their differences of character, at the same time connected the Egyptians with the Latins. The mistakes of his own friends obliged him to side with a seeming faction in the body of the Antiochene Church; and, in the schism which followed, he found himself in opposition to the Catholic communities of Asia Minor and the East. Still, though the course of events tended to ultimate disruptions in the Catholic Church, his personal influence remained unimpaired to the last, and enabled him to interpose with good effect in the affairs of the East. This is well illustrated by a letter addressed to him shortly before his death, by St. Basil, who belonged to the contrary party, and had then recently been elevated to the exarchate of Cæsarea. It shall be here inserted, and may serve as a sort of valediction in parting with one, who, after the Apostles, has been a principal instrument, by

which the sacred truths of Christianity have been conveyed and secured to the world.

“To Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. The more the sicknesses of the Church increase, so much the more earnestly do we all turn towards thy Perfection, persuaded that for thee to lead us is our sole remaining comfort in our difficulties. By the power of thy prayers, by the wisdom of thy counsels, thou art able to carry us through this fearful storm; as all are sure, who have heard or made trial of that perfection ever so little. Wherefore cease not both to pray for our souls, and to stir us up by thy letters ; didst thou know the profit of these to us, thou wouldst never let pass an opportunity of writing to us. For me, were it vouchsafed to me, by the co-operation of thy prayers, once to see thee, and to profit by the gift lodged in thee, and to add to the history of my life a meeting with so great and apostolical a soul, surely I should consider myself to have received from the loving mercy of God a compensation for all the ills, with which my life has ever been afflicted !.”


The trials of the Church, spoken of by Basil in this letter, were the beginnings of the persecution directed against it by the Emperor Valens. This prince, who succeeded Jovian in the East, had been baptized by Eudoxius; who, from the time he became possessed of the See of Constantinople, was the chief, and soon became the sole, though a powerful, support of the Eusebian faction. He is said to have bound Valens by oath, at

1 Basil. Ep. 80.

the time of his baptism, that he would establish Arianism as the state religion of the East; and thus to have prolonged its ascendancy for an additional sixteen years after the death of Constantius (A.D. 361–378). At the beginning of this period, the heretical party had been weakened by the secession of the Semi-Arians, who had not merely left it, but had joined the Catholics. This part of the history affords a striking illustration, not only of the gradual influence of truth over error, but of the remarkable manner in which Divine Providence makes use of error itself as a preparation for truth; that is, employing the lighter forms of it in sweeping away those of a more offensive nature Thus Semi-Arianism became the bulwark and forerunner of the orthodoxy which it opposed. From A.D. 357, the date of the second and virtually Homean formulary of Sirmium”, it had protested against the impiety of the genuine Arians. In the successive Councils of Ancyra and Seleucia, in the two following years, it had condemned and deposed them; and had established the scarcely objectionable creed of Lucian. On its own subsequent disgrace at Court, it had concentrated itself on the Asiatic side of the Hellespont; while the high character of its leading bishops for gravity and strictness of life, and its influence over the monastic institutions, gave it a formidable popularity among the lower classes on the opposite coast of Thrace.

Six years after the Council of Seleucia (A.D. 365), in the reign of Valens, the Semi-Arians held a Council at Lampsacus, in which they condemned the Homean

? [Vide supra, pp. 332, 333.]

formulary of Ariminum, confirmed the creed of the Dedication (A.D. 341), and, after citing the Eudoxians to answer the accusations brought against them, proceeded ratify that deposition of them, which had already been pronounced at Seleucia. At this time they seem to have entertained hopes of gaining the Emperor ; but, on finding the influence of Eudoxius paramount at Court. their horror or jealousy of his party led them to a bolder step. They resolved on putting themselves under the protection of Valentinian, the orthodox Emperor of the West; and, finding it necessary for this purpose to stand well with the Latin Church, they at length overcame their repugnance to the Homoüsion, and subscribed a formula, of which (at least till the Council of Constantinople, A.D. 360) they had been among the most eager and obstinate opposers. Fifty-nine Semi-Arian Bishops gave in their assent to orthodoxy on this memorable occasion, which took place A.D. 366. Their deputies were received into communion by Liberius, who had recovered himself at Ariminum, and who wrote letters in favour of these new converts to the Churches of the East. On their return, they presented themselves before an orthodox Council then sitting at Tyana, exhibited the commendatory letters which they had received from Italy, Gaul, Africa, and Sicily, as well as Rome, and were joyfully acknowledged by the assembled Fathers as members of the Catholic body. A final Council was appointed at Tarsus; whither it was hoped all the Churches of the East would send representatives, in order to complete the reconciliation between the two parties. But enough had been done, as it would seem, in the external course of events, to unite the scattered portions of the Church; and, when that end was on the point of accomplishment, the usual law of Divine Providence intervened, and left the sequel of the union as a task and a trial for Christians individually. The project of the Council failed; thirty-four Semi-Arian bishops suddenly opposed themselves to the purpose of their brethren, and protested against the Homoüsion. The Emperor, on the other hand, recently baptized by Eudoxius, interfered; forbade the proposed Council, and proceeded to issue an edict, in which all bishops were deposed from their Sees who had been banished under Constantius, and restored by Julian. It was at this time, that the fifth exile of Athanasius took place, which was lately mentioned. A more cruel persecution followed in A.D. 371, and lasted for several years. The death of Valens, A.D. 378, was followed by the final downfall of Arianism in the Eastern Church.

As to Semi-Arianism, it disappears from ecclesiastical history at the date of the proposed Council of Tarsus (A.D. 367); from which time the portion of the party, which remained non-conformist, is more properly designated Macedonian, or Pneumatomachist, from the chief article of their heresy.


During the reign of Valens, much had been done in furtherance of evangelical truth, in the still remaining territory of Arianism, by the proceedings of the SemiArians; but at the same period symptoms of returning orthodoxy, even in its purest form, had appeared in Con

« PreviousContinue »