Page images

Nicomedia, and at once addressed a letter to Alexander and Arius jointly'; a reference to which will enable the reader to verify for himself the account above given of the nature of the Emperor's Christianity. He professes therein two motives as impelling him in his public conduct; first, the desire of effecting the reception, throughout his dominions, of some one definite and complete form of religious worship ; next, that of settling and invigorating the civil institutions of the empire. Desirous of securing an unity of sentiment among all the believers in the Deity, he first directed his attention to the religious dissensions of Africa, which he had hoped, with the aid of the Oriental Christians, to terminate. “But," he continues, "glorious and Divine Providence! how fatally were my ears, or rather my heart, wounded, by the report of a rising schism among you, far more acrimonious than the African dissensions. ... On investi- . gation, I find that the reason for this quarrel is insignifi-' cant and worthless. As I understand it, you, Alexander, were asking the separate opinions of your clergy on some passage of your law, or rather were inquiring about some idle question, when you, Arius, inconsiderately committed yourself to statements which should either never have come into your mind, or have been at once repressed. On this a difference ensued, Christian intercourse was suspended, the sacred flock was divided into two, breaking the harmonious unity of the common tody. . . . Listen to the advice of me, your fellow-servant :-neither ask nor answer questions which

9 Euseb. Vit. Const. ii. 64–72.

are not upon any injunction of your law, but from the altercation of barren leisure; at best keep them to yourselves, and do not publish them. ... Your contention is not about any capital commandment of your law; peither of you is introducing any novel scheme of divine worship; you are of one and the same way of thinking, so that it is in your power to unite in one communion. Even the philosophers can agree together, one and all, in one dogma, though differing in particulars. . . . Is it right for brothers to oppose brothers, for the sake of trifles ? Such conduct might be expected from the multitude, or from the recklessness of boyhood; but is little in keeping with your sacred profession, and with your personal wisdom.” Such is the substance of his letter, which, written on an imperfect knowledge of the facts of the case, and with somewhat of the prejudices of Eclectic liberalism, was inapplicable, even where abstractedly true ; his fault lying in his supposing, that an individual like himself, who had not even received the grace of baptism, could discriminate between great and little questions in theology. He concludes with the following words, which show the amiableness and sincerity of a mind in a measure awakened from the darkness of heathenism, though they betráy the affectation of the rhetorician: “Give me back my days of calm, my nights of security; that I may experience henceforth the comfort of the clear light, and the cheerfulness of tranquillity. Otherwise, I shall sigh and be dissolved in tears. . .,. So great is my grief, that I put off my journey to the East on the news of

dissension. Open for me that path towards you, which your contentions have closed up. Let me see you and all other cities in happiness; that I may offer due thanksgivings to God above, for the unanimity and free intercourse which is seen among you.”


This letter was conveyed to the Alexandrian Church by Hosius, who was appointed by the Emperor to mediate between the contending parties. A Council was called, in which some minor irregularities were arranged, but nothing settled on the main question in dispute. Hosius returned to his master to report an unsuccessful mission, and to advise, as the sole measure which remained to be adopted, the calling of a General Council, in which the Catholic doctrine might be formally declared, and a judgment promulgated as to the basis upon which communion with the Church was henceforth to be determined. Constantine assented; and, discovering that the ecclesiastical authorities were earnest in condemning the tenets of Arius, as being an audacious innovation on the received creed, he suddenly adopted a new line of conduct towards the heresy; and in a Letter which he addressed to Arius, professes himself a zealous advocate of Christian truth, ventures to expound it, and attacks Arius with a vehemence which can only be imputed to his impatience in finding that any individual had presumed to disturb the peace of the community. It is remarkable, as showing his utter ignorance of doctrines, which were never intended for discussion among the unbaptized heathen, or the secularized Christian, that, in spite of this bold avowal of the orthodox faith in detail, yet shortly after he explained to Eusebius one of the Nicene declarations in a sense

which even Arius would scarcely have allowed, expressed as it is almost after the manner of Paulus ?.

3. The first Ecumenical Council met at Nicæa in Bithynia, in the summer of A.D. 325. It was attended by about 300 Bishops, chiefly from the eastern provinces of the empire, besides a multitude of priests, deacons, and other functionaries of the Church. Hosius, one of the most eminent men of an age of saints, was president. The Fathers who took the principal share in its proceedings were Alexander of Alexandria, attended by his deacon Athanasius, then about 27 years of age, and soon afterwards his successor in the see; Eustathius, patriarch of Antioch, Macarius of Jerusalem, Cæcilian of Carthage, the object of the hostility of the Donatists, Leontius of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, and Marcellus of Ancyra, whose name was afterwards unhappily notorious in the Church. The number of Arian Bishops is variously stated at 13, 17, or 22; the most conspicuous of these being the wellknown prelates of Nicomedia and Cæsarea, both of whom bore the name of Eusebius.

The discussions of the Council commenced in the middle of June, and were at first private. Arius was introduced and examined; and confessed his impieties with a plainness and vehemence far more respectable than the hypocrisy which was the characteristic of his party, and ultimately was adopted by himself. Then followed his disputation with Athanasius', who after

1 Theod. Hist. i. 12. 3 [“ It is difficult,” say the notes, Ath. Tr. pp. 94, 183, “ to gain a clear


wards engaged the Arian Eusebius of Nicomedia, Maris, and Theognis. The unfortunate Marcellus also distinguished himself in the defence of the Catholic doctrine.

Reference has been already made to Gibbon's representation, that the Fathers of the Council were in doubt for a time, how to discriminate between their own doctrine and the heresy; but the discussions of the

idea of the character of Arius. Athanasius speaks as if his Thalia was but in keeping with his life, calling him the Sotadean Arius,' while Constantine, Alexander, and Epiphanius give us a contrary view of him, still differing one from the other. Constantine, indeed, is not consistent with himself; first he cries out to him (as if with Athanasius), 'Arius, Arius, at least let the society of Venus keep you back, then · Look, look all men . . how his veins and flesh are possessed with poison, and are in a ferment of severe pain; how his whole body is wasted, and is all withered and sad and pale and shaking, and all that is miserable and fearfully emaciated. How hateful to see, and how filthy is his mass of hair, how he is half dead all over, with failing eyes and bloodless countenance, and woe-begone; so that, all these things combining in him at once, frenzy, madness, and folly, from the continuance of the complaint, have made thee wild and savage. But, not having any sense of the bad plight he is in, he cries out, “I am transported with delight, and I leap and skip for joy, and I fy;" and again, with boyish impetuosity, “ Be it so,” he says,“ we are lost.' Harduin. Conc. t. i. p. 457. St. Alexander speaks of Arius's melancholy temperament. Epiphanius's account of him is as follows: “ From elation of mind this old man swerved from the truth. He was in stature very tall, downcast in visage, with manners like a wily serpent, captivating to every guileless heart by that same crafty bearing. For, ever habited in cloke and vest, he was pleasant of address, ever persuading souls and flattering,” &c. Hær. 69, 3. Arius is here said to be tall; Athanasius, unless Julian's description of him is but declamation, was short, μηδέ ανήρ, αλλ' ανθρωπισκος ευτελής (“ not even a man, but a common little fellow”). Ep. 51. However, Gregory Nazianzen, who had never seen him, speaks of him, as “high in prowess, and humble in spirit, mild, meek, full of sympathy, pleasant in speech, more pleasant in manners, angelical in person, more angelical in mind, serene in his rebukes, instructive in his praises,” &c. Orat. 21. 8.]

3 [Supr. p. 240.]

ور و در

« PreviousContinue »