« PreviousContinue »
. 11.] The Council of Constantinople. 399 address; and, a reaction of feeling taking place, they passionately entreated him to abandon a resolve, which would involve the ruin of orthodoxy in Constantinople, and they declared that they would not quit the church till he acceded to their importunities. At their entreaties, he consented to suspend the execution of his purpose for a while; that is, until the Eastern prelates who were expected at the General Council, which had by that time been convoked, should appoint a Bishop in his room.
The circumstances attending the arrival of Theodosius at Constantinople, connected as they were with the establishment of the true religion, still were calculated to inflict an additional wound on his feelings, and to increase his indisposition to continue in his post, endeared though it was to him by its first associations. The inhabitants of an opulent and luxurious metropolis, familiarized to Arianism by its forty years' ascendancy among them, and disgusted at the apparent severity of the orthodox school, prepared to resist the installation of Gregory in the cathedral of St. Sophia. A strong military force was appointed to escort him thither; and the Emperor gave countenance to the proceedings by his own presence. Allowing himself to be put in possession of the church, Gregory was nevertheless firm to his purpose of not seating himself upon the Archiepiscopal throne; and when the light-minded multitude clamorously required it, he was unequal to the task of addressing them, and deputed one of his Presbyters to speak in his stead.
Nor were the manners of the Court more congenial to his well-regulated mind, than the lawless spirit of the people. Offended at the disorders which he witnessed there, he shunned the condescending advances of the Emperor; and was with difficulty withdrawn from the duties of his station, the solitude of his own thoughts, and the activity of pious ministrations, prayer and fasting, the punishment of offenders and the visitation of the sick. Careless of personal splendour, he allowed the revenues of his see to be expended in supporting its dignity, by inferior ecclesiastics, who were in his confidence; and, while he defended the principle, on which Arianism had been dispossessed of its power, he exerted himself with earnestness to protect the heretics from all intemperate execution of the Imperial decree.
Nor was the elevated refinement of Gregory better adapted to sway the minds of the corrupt hierarchy which Arianism had engendered, than to rule the Court and the people. “If I must speak the truth,” he says in one of his letters, “I feel disposed to shun every conference of Bishops ; because I never saw Synod brought to a happy issue, nor remedying, but rather increasing, existing evils. For ever is there rivalry and ambition, and these have the mastery of reason ;do not think me extravagant for saying so ;—and a mediator is more likely to be attacked himself, than to succeed in his pacification. Accordingly, I have fallen back upon myself, and consider quiet the only security of life.”
Such was the state of things, under which the second Ecumenical Council, as it has since been considered, was convoked. It met in May, A.D. 381; being designed to put an end, as far as might be, to those very disorders, which unhappily found their principal exercise in the assemblies which were to remove them. The Western Church enjoyed at this time an almost perfect peace, and sent no deputies to Constantinople. But in the Oriental provinces, besides the distractions caused by the various heretical offshoots of Arianism, its indirect effects existed in the dissensions of the Catholics themselves; in the schism at Antioch; in the claims of Maximus to the see of Constantinople; and in recent disturbances at Alexandria, where the loss of Athanasius. was already painfully visible. Added to these, was the ambiguous position of the Macedonians; who resisted the orthodox doctrine, yet were only by implication heretical, or at least some of them far less than others. Thirty-six of their Bishops attended the Council, principally from the neighbourhood of the Hellespont; of the orthodox there were 150, Meletius, of Antioch, being the president. Other eminent prelates present were Gregory Nyssen, brother of St. Basil, who had died some years before; Amphilochius of Iconium, Diodorus of Tarsus, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Gelasius of Cæsarea, in Palestine. * The Council had scarcely accomplished its first act, the establishment of Gregory in the see of Constantinople, to the exclusion of Maximus, when Meletius,
the President, died; an unhappy event, as not only removing a check from its more turbulent members, but in itself supplying the materials of immediate discord. An arrangement had been effected between the two orthodox communions at Antioch, by which it was provided, that the survivor of the rival Bishops should be acknowledged by the opposite party, and a termination thus put to the schism. This was in accordance with the principle acted upon by the Alexandrian Council, on the separation of the Meletians from the Arians. At that time the Eustathian party was called on to concede, by acknowledging Meletius; and now, on the death of Meletius, it became the duty of the Meletians in turn to submit to Paulinus, whom Lucifer had consecrated as Bishop of the Eustathians. Schism, however, admits not of these simple remedies. The self-will of a Latin Bishop had defeated the plan of conciliation in the former instance; and now the pride and jealousy of the Orientals revolted from communion with a prelate of Latin creation. The attempt of Gregory, who had succeeded to the presidency of the Council, to calm their angry feelings, and to persuade them to deal fairly with the Eustathians, as well as to restore peace to the Church, only directed their violence against himself. It was in vain that his own connexion with the Meletian party evidenced the moderation and candour of his advice; in vain that the age of Paulinus gave assurance, that the nominal triumph of the Latins could be of no long continuance. Flavian, who, together with others, had solemnly sworn, that he would not accept the bishoprick in case of the death of Meletius, permitted himself to be elevated to the vacant see; and Gregory, driven from the Council, took refuge from its clamours in a remote part of Constantinople.
About this time the arrival of the Egyptian bishops increased the dissension. By some inexplicable omission they had not been summoned to the Council; and they came, inflamed with resentment against the Orientals. They had throughout taken the side of Paulinus, and now their earnestness in his favour was increased by their jealousy of his opponents. Another cause of offence was given to them, in the recognition of Gregory before their arrival; nor did his siding with them in behalf of Paulinus, avail to avert from him the consequences of their indignation. Maximus was their countryman, and the deposition of Gregory was necessary to appease their insulted patriotism. Accordingly, the former charge was revived of the illegality of his promotion. A Canon of the Nicene Council prohibited the translation of bishops, priests, or deacons, from Church to Church; and, while it was calumniously pretended, that Gregory had held in succession three bishopricks, Sasime, Nazianzus, and Constantinople, it could not be denied, that, at least, he had passed from Nazianzus, the place of his original ordination, to the Imperial city. Urged by this fresh attack, Gregory once more resolved to retire from an eminence, which he had from the first been reluctant to occupy, except for the sake of the remembrances, with which it was connected. The Emperor with difficulty accepted his resignation ; but at length allowed him to depart from Constantinople, Nectarius being placed on the patriarchal throne in his stead.