Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 Homoean

? [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 Provi. dence 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 Constantinople itself. On the death of Eudoxius (A.D.370), the Catholics elected an orthodox successor, by name Evagrius. He was instantly banished by the Emperor's command ; and the population of Constantinople seconded the act of Valens, by the most unprovoked excesses towards the Catholics. Eighty of their clergy, who were in consequence deputed to lay their grievances before the Emperor, lost their lives, under circumstances of extreme treachery, and barbarity. Faith, which was able to stand its ground in such a season of persecution, was naturally prompted to more strenuous acts, when prosperous times succeeded. On the death of Valens, the Catholics of Constantinople looked beyond their own community for assistance, in combating the dominant heresy. Evagrius, whom they had elected to the See, seems to have died in exile; and they invited to his place the celebrated Gregory Nazianzen, a man of diversified accomplishments, distinguished for his eloquence, and still more for his orthodoxy, his integrity, and the innocence, amiableness, and refinement of his character.

Gregory was a native of Cappadocia, and an intimate friend of the great Basil, with whom he had studied at Athens. On Basil's elevation to the exarchate of Cæsarea, Gregory had been placed by him in the bishoprick of Sasime; but, the appointment being contested by Anthimus, who claimed the primacy of the lower Cappadocia, he retired to Nazianzus, his father's diocese, where he took on himself those duties, to which the elder Gregory had become unequal. After the death of the latter, he remained for several years without pastoral employment, till the call of the Catholics brought him to Constantinople. His election was approved by Meletius, patriarch of Antioch; and by Peter, the successor of Athanasius, who by letter recognized his accession to the metropolitan see.

On his first arrival there, he had no more suitable place of worship than his own lodgings, where he preached the Catholic doctrine to the dwindled communion over which he presided. But the result which Constantius had anticipated, when he denied to Athanasius a Church in Antioch, soon showed itself at Constantinople. His congregation increased; the house, in which they assembled, was converted into a church by the pious liberality of its owner, with the name of Anastasia, in hope of that resurrection which now awaited the long-buried truths of the Gospel. The contempt, with which the Arians had first regarded him, was succeeded by a persecution on the part of the populace. An attempt was made to stone him; his church was attacked, and he himself brought before a magistrate, under pretence of having caused the riot. Violence so unjust did but increase the influence, which a disdainful toleration had allowed him to establish; and the accession of the orthodox Theodosius secured it.

On his arrival at Constantinople, the new Emperor resolved on executing in his capital the determination, which he had already prescribed by edict to the Eastern Empire. The Arian Bishops were required to subscribe the Nicene formulary, or to quit their sees. Demophilus, the Eusebian successor of Eudoxius, who has already been introduced to our notice as an accomplice in the

« PreviousContinue »