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by the arguments peculiar to a monarch; and the timid Constantius, yielding to fear what he denied to justice, consented to restore to Alexandria a champion of the truth, who had been condemned on the wildest of charges, by the most hostile and unprincipled of judges.
The journey of Athanasius to Alexandria elicited the fullest and most satisfactory testimonies of the real orthodoxy of the Eastern Christians; in spite of the existing cowardice or misapprehension, which surrendered them to the tyrannical rule of a few determined and energetic heretics. The Bishops of Palestine, one of the chief holds of the Arian spirit, welcomed, with the solemnity of a Council, a restoration, which, under the circumstances of the case, was almost a triumph over their own sovereign; and so excited was the Catholic feeling even at Antioch, that Constantius feared to grant to the Athanasians a single Church in that city, lest it should have been the ruin of the Arian cause.
One of the more important consequences of the Council of Sardica, was the public recantation of Valens, and his accomplice Ursacius, Bishop of Singidon, in Pannonia, two of the most inveterate enemies and calumniators of Athanasius. It was addressed to the Bishop of Rome, and was conceived in the following terms: “Whereas we are known heretofore to have preferred many grievous charges against Athanasius the Bishop, and, on being put on our defence by your excellency, have failed to make good our charges, we declare to your excellency, in the presence of all the presbyters, our brethren, that all which we have heretofore heard against the aforesaid, is false, and altogether foreign to his character; and therefore, that we heartily embrace the communion of the aforesaid Athanasius, especially considering your Holiness, according to your habitual clemency, has condescended to pardon our mistake. Further we declare, that, should the Orientals at any time, or Athanasius, from resentful feelings, be desirous to bring us to account, that we will not act in the matter without your sanction. As for the heretic Arius, and his partisans, who say that “ Once the Son was not,” that“He is of created Substance," and that “ He is not the Son of God before all time," we anathematize them now, and once for all, according to our former statement which we presented at Milan. Witness our hand, that we condemn once for all the Arian heresy, as we have already said, and its advocates. Witness also the hand of Ursacius.-I, Ursacius the Bishop, have set my name to this statement 3.”
The Council of Milan, referred to in the conclusion of this letter, seems to have been held A.D. 347; two years after the Arian creed, called Macrostich, was sent into the West, and shortly after the declaration of Constans in favour of the restoration of the Athanasians.
8 Athan. Apol. cont. Arian. 58.
The events recorded in the last Section were attended by important consequences in the history of Arianism. The Council of Sardica led to a separation between the Eastern and Western Churches; which seemed to be there represented respectively by the rival Synods of Sardica and Philippopolis, and which had before this time hidden their differences from each other, and communicated together from a fear of increasing the existing evil'. Not that really there was any discordance of doctrine between them. The historian, from whom this statement is taken, gives it at the same time as his own opinion, that the majority of the Asiaties were Homoüsians, though tyrannized over by the court influence, the sophistry, the importunity, and the daring, of the Eusebian party. This mere handful of divines, unscrupuiously pressing forward into the highest ecclesiastical stations, set about them to change the condition of the Churches thus put into their power; and, as has been remarked in the case of Leontius of
i Soz. iii. 13.
Antioch, filled the inferior offices with their own creatures, and sowed the seeds of future discords and disorders, which they could not hope to have themselves the satisfaction of beholding. The orthodox majority of Bishops and divines, on the other hand, timorously or indolently, kept in the background; and allowed themselves to be represented at Sardica by men, whose tenets they knew to be unchristian, and professed to abominate. And in such circumstances, the blame of the open dissensions, which ensued between the Eastern and Western divisions of Christendom, was certain to be attributed to those who urged the summoning of the Council, not to those who neglected their duty by staying away. In qualification of this censure, however, the intriguing spirit of the Eusebians must be borne in mind; who might have means, of which we are not told, of keeping away their orthodox brethren from Sardica. Certainly the expense of the journey was considerable, whatever might be the imperial or the ecclesiastical allowances for it?, and their
? On the cursus publicus, vid. Gothofred. in Cod. Theod. viii. tit. 5. It was provided for the journeys of the Emperor, for persons whom he summoned, for magistrates, ambassadors, and for such private persons as the Emperor indulged in the use of it, which was gratis. The use was granted by Constantine to the Bishops who were summoned to Nicæa, as far as it it went, in addition to other means of travelling. Euseb. V. Const. iii. 6. (though aliter Valesius in loc.) The cursus publicus brought the Bishops to the Council of Tyre. Ibid. iv. 43. In the conference between Liberius and Constantius (Theod. Hist. ii. 13), it is objected that the cursus publicus is not sufficient to convey Bishops to the Council, as Liberius proposes ; he answers that the Churches are rich enough to convey their Bishops as far as the seas. Thus St. Hilary was compelled (datâ evectionis copiâ, Sulp. Sev. Hist. ii. 57) to attend at Seleucia, as Athanasius at Tyre. Julian complains of the abuse of the cursus publicus, perhaps with an allusion to these Councils of Constantius. Vide Cod. Theod. viii. tit. 5, 1. 12; where Gothofred quotes Liban. Epitaph, in
absence from their flocks, especially in an age fertile in Councils, was an evil. Still there is enough in the history of the times, to evidence a culpable negligence on the part of the orthodox of Asia.
However, this rupture between the East and West has here been noticed, not to censure the Asiatic Churches, but for the sake of its influence on the fortunes of Arianism. It had the effect of pushing forward the Semi-Arians, as they are called, into a party distinct from the Eusebian or Court party, among whom they had hitherto been concealed. This party, as its name implies, professed a doctrine approximating to the orthodox; and thus served as a means of deceiving the Western Churches, which were unskilled in the evasions, by which the Eusebians extricated themselves from even the most explicit confessions of the Catholic doctrine. Accordingly, the six heretical confessions hitherto recounted were all Semi-Arian in character, as being intended more or less to justify the heretical
Julian. (vol. i. p. 569, ed. Reiske). Vide the well-known passage of Ammianus, who speaks of the Councils as being the ruin of the res vehicularia, Hist. xxi. 16. The Eusebians at Philippopolis say the same, Hilar. Fragm. iii. 25. The Emperor provided board and perhaps lodging for the Bishops at Ariminum; which the Bishops of Aquitaine, Gaul, and Britain declined, except three British from poverty. Sulp. Hist. ii. 56. Hunmeric in Africa, after assembling 466 Bishops at Carthage, dismissed them without mode of conveyance, provision, or baggage. Victor. Utic. Hist. iii. init. In the Emperor's letter previous to the assembling of the sixth Ecumenical Council, A.D. 678 (Harduin. Conc. t. 3, p. 1043, fin.), he says he has given orders for the conveyance and maintenance of its members. Pope John VIII. reminds Ursus, Duke of Venice (A.D. 876), of the same duty of providing for the members of a Council, “secundum pios principes, qui in talibus munificè semper erant intenti.” Colet. Concil. (Ven. 1730) t. xi. p. 14.]