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COUNCILS IN THE REIGN OF CONSTANTIUS 2.
The death of Arius was productive of no important consequences in the history of his party. They had never deferred to him as their leader, and since the Nicene Council had even abandoned his creed. The theology of the Eclectics had opened to Eusebius of Cæsarea a language less obnoxious to the Catholics and to Constantine, than that into which he had been betrayed in Palestine ; while his namesake, possessing the confidence of the Emperor, was enabled to wield weapons more decisive in the controversy than those which Arius had used. From that time Semi-Arianism was their profession, and calumny their weapon, for the deposition,
1 [In this Chapter a change in the structure of the sentences has been made here and there, with the view of relieving the intricacies the narrative.]
[Vid. Appendix, No. 6.]
by legal process, of their Catholic opponents. This is the character of their proceedings from A.D. 328 to A.D. 350; when circumstances led them to adopt a third creed, and enabled them to support it by open force.
It may at first sight excite our surprise, that men who were so little careful to be consistent in their professions of faith, should be at the pains to find evasions for a test, which they might have subscribed as a matter of course, and then dismissed from their thoughts. But, not to mention the natural desire of continuing an opposition to which they had once committed themselves, and especially after a defeat, there is, moreover, that in religious mysteries which is ever distasteful to secular minds. The marvellous, which is sure to excite the impatience and resentment of the baffled reason, becomes insupportable when found in those solemn topics, which it would fain look upon, as necessary indeed for the uneducated, but irrelevant when addressed to those who are already skilled in the knowledge and the superficial decencies of virtue. The difficulties of science may be dismissed from the mind, and virtually forgotten; the precepts of morality, imperative as they are, may be received with the condescension, and applied with the modifications, of a self-applauding refinement. But what at once demands attention, yet refuses to satisfy curiosity, places itself above the human mind, imprints on it the thought of Him who is eternal, and enforces the necessity of obedience for its own sake. And thus it becomes to the proud and irreverent, what the consciousness of guilt is to the sinner; a spectre haunting the field, and disturbing the complacency, of their intellectual investigations. In this at least, throughout their changes, the Eusebians are consistent,-in their hatred of the Sacred Mystery.
It has sometimes been scornfully said, on the other hand, that the zeal of Christians, in the discussion of theological subjects, has increased with the mysteriousness of the doctrine in dispute. There is no reason why we should shrink from the avowal. Doubtless, a subject that is dear to us, does become more deeply fixed in our affections by its very peculiarities and incidental obscurities. We desire to revere what we already love ; and we seek for the materials of reverence in such parts of it, as exceed our intelligence or imagination. It should therefore excite our devout gratitude, to reflect how the truth has been revealed to us in Scripture in the most practical manner; so as both to humble and to win over, while it consoles, those who really love it. Moreover, with reference to the particular mystery under consideration, since a belief in our Lord's Divinity is closely connected (how, it matters not) with deep religious feeling generally,-involving a sense both of our need and of the value of the blessings which He has procured for us, and an emancipation from the tyranny of the visible world,-it is not wonderful, that those, who would confine our knowledge of God to things seen, should dislike to hear of His true and only Image. If the unbeliever has attempted to account for the rise of the doctrine, by the alleged natural growth of a veneration for the Person and acts of the Redeemer, let it at least be allowed to Christians to reverse the process of argument, and to maintain rather, that a low estimation of the evangelical blessings leads to unworthy conceptions of the Author of them. In the case of laymen it will show itself in a sceptical neglect of the subject of religion altogether; while ecclesiastics, on whose minds religion is forced, are tempted either to an undue exaltation of their order, or to a creed dishonourable to their Lord. The Eusebians adopted the latter alternative, and so merged the supremacy of Divine Truth amid the multifarious religions and philosophies of the world.
Their skilfulness in reasoning and love of disputation afford us an additional explanation of their pertinacious opposition to the Nicene Creed. Though, in possessing the favour of the Imperial Court, they had already the substantial advantages of victory, they disdained success without a battle. They loved the excitement of suspense, and the triumph of victory. And this sophistical turn of mind accounts, not only for their incessant wranglings, but for their frequent changes of view, as regards the doctrine in dispute. It may be doubted whether men, so practised in the gymnastics of the Aristotelic school, could carefully develope and consistently maintain a definite view of doctrine; especially in a case, where the difficulties of an unsound cause combined with their own habitual restlessness and levity to defeat the attempt. Accordingly, in their conduct of the argument, they seem to be aiming at nothing beyond " living from hand to mouth," as the saying is; availing themselves of some or other expedient, which would suffice to carry them through existing difficulties; admissions, whether to satisfy the timid conscience of Constantius, or to deceive the Western Church; or statements so faintly precise and so decently ambiguous, as to embrace the greatest number of opinions possible, and to deprive religion, in consequence, of its austere and commanding aspect.
That I may not seem to be indulging in vague accusation, I here present the reader with a sketch of the lives of the chief of them; from which he will be able to decide, whether the above explanation of their conduct is unnecessary or gratuitous.
The most distinguished of the party, after Eusebius himself, for ability, learning, and unscrupulousness, was Acacius, the successor of the other Eusebius in the see of Cæsarea. He had been his pupil, and on his death inherited his library. Jerome ranks him among the most learned commentators on Scripture. The Arian historian, Philostorgius, praises his boldness, penetration, and perspicuity in unfolding his views: and Sozomen speaks of his talents and influence as equal to the execution of the most difficult designs'. He began at first with professing himself a Semi-Arian after the example of Eusebius, his master; next, he became the founder of the party, which will presently be described as the Homcan or Scriptural; thirdly, he joined himself to the Anomeans or pure Arians, so as even to be the intimate associate of the wretched Aetius; fourthly, at the command of Constantius, he deserted and excom
3 Tillemont, Mem. des Ariens, vol. vi. c. 28.