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THE ORTHODOXY OF THE BODY OF THE FAITHFUL DURING
THE SUPREMACY OF ARIANISM.
(Vide supra, p. 369.)
THE episcopate, whose action was so prompt and concordant at Nicæa on the rise of Arianism, did not, as a class or order of men, play a good part in the troubles consequent upon the Council; and the laity did. The Catholic people, in the length and breadth of Christendom, were the obstinate champions of Catholic truth, and the bishops were not. Of course there were great and illustrious exceptions; first, Athanasius, Hilary, the Latin Eusebius, and Phoebadius; and after them, Basil, the two Gregories, and Ambrose; there are others, too, who suffered, if they did nothing else, as Eustathius, Paulus, Paulinus, and Dionysius; and the Egyptian bishops, whose weight was small in the Church in proportion to the great power of their Patriarch. And, on the other hand, as I shall say presently, there were exceptions to the Christian heroism of the laity, especially in some of the great towns. And again, in speaking of the laity, I speak inclusively of their parish-priests (so to call them), at least in many places; but on the whole, taking a wide view of the history, we are obliged to say that the governing body of the Church came short, and the governed were pre-eminent in faith, zeal, courage, and constancy.
This is a very remarkable fact; but there is a moral in it. Perhaps it was permitted, in order to impress upon the Church at that very time passing out of her state of persecution to
1 From the Rambler, July, 1859.
her long temporal ascendancy, the great evangelical lesson, that, not the wise and powerful, but the obscure, the unlearned, and the weak constitute her real strength. It was mainly by the faithful people that Paganism was overthrown ; it was by the faithful people, under the lead of Athanasius and the Egyptian bishops, and in some places supported by their Bishops or priests, that the worst of heresies was withstood and stamped out of the sacred territory.
The contrast stands as follows:
1. 1. A.D. 325. The great Council of Nicæa of 318 Bishops, chiefly from the eastern provinces of Christendom, under the presidency of Hosius of Cordova. It was convoked against Arianism, which it once for all anathematized; and it inserted the formula of the“ Consubstantial” into the Creed, with the view of establishing the fundamental dogma which Arianism impugned. It is the first Ecumenical Council, and recognized at the time its own authority as the voice of the infallible Church. It is so received by the orbis terrarum at this day.
2. A.D. 326. St. Athanasius, the great champion of the Homoüsion, was elected Bishop of Alexandria.
3. A.D. 334, 335. The Synods of Cæsarea and Tyre (sixty Bishops) against Athanasius, who was therein accused and formally condemned of rebellion, sedition, and ecclesiastical tyranny; of murder, sacrilege, and magic; deposed from his See, forbidden to set foot in Alexandria for life, and banished to Gaul. Also, they received Arius into communion.
4. A.D. 341. Council of Rome of fifty Bishops, attended by the exiles from Thrace, Syria, &c., by Athanasius, &c., in which Athanasius was pronounced innocent.
5. A.D. 341. Great Council of the Dedication at Antioch, attended by ninety or a hundred Bishops. The council ratified the proceedings of the Councils of Cæsarea and Tyre, and placed an Arian in the See of Athanasius. Then it proceeded to pass a dogmatic decree in reversal of the formula of the “ Consubstantial.” Four or five creeds, instead of the Nicene, were successively adopted by the assembled Fathers.
Three of these were circulated in the neighbourhood; but as they wished to send one to Rome, they directed a fourth to be drawn up. This, too, apparently failed. . 6. A.D. 345. Council of the creed called Macrostich. This Creed suppressed, as did the third, the word “substance." The eastern Bishops sent this to the Bishops of France, who rejected it.
7. A.D. 347. The great Council of Sardica, attended by more than 300 Bishops, Before it commenced, a division between its members broke out on the question whether or not Athanasius should have a seat in it. In consequence, seventy-six retired to Philippopolis, on the Thracian side of Mount Hæmus, and there excommunicated the Pope and the Sardican fathers. These seceders published a sixth confession of faith. The Synod of Sardica, including Bishops from Italy, Gaul, Africa, Egypt, Cyprus, and Palestine, confirmed the act of the Roman Council, and restored Athanasius and the other exiles to their Sees. The Synod of Philippopolis, on the contrary, sent letters to the civil magistrates of those cities, forbidding them to admit the exiles into them. The Imperial power took part with the Sardican Fathers, and Athanasius went back to Alexandria.
8. A.D. 351. The Bishops of the East met at Sirmium. The semi-Arian Bishops began to detach themselves from the Arians, and to form a separate party, Under pretence of putting down a kind of Sabellianism, they drew up a new creed, into which they introduced the language of some of the ante-Nicene writers on the subject of our Lord's divinity, and dropped the word “substance."
9. A.D. 353. The Council of Arles. The Pope sent to it several Bishops as legates. The Fathers of the Council, including the Pope's legate, Vincent, subscribed the condemnation of Athanasius. Paulinus, Bishop of Treves, was nearly the only one who stood up for the Nicene faith and for Athanasius. He was accordingly banished into Phrygia, where he died.
10. A.D. 355. The Council of Milan, of more than 300 Bishops of the West. Nearly all of them subscribed the condemnation of Athanasius; whether they generally subscribed the heretical creed, which was brought forward, does not appear. The Pope's four legates remained firm, and St. Dionysius of Milan, who died an exile in Asia Minor. An Arian was put into his See. Saturninus, the Bishop of Arles, proceeded to hold a council at Beziers; and its Fathers banished St. Hilary to Phrygia.
11. A.D. 357-9. The Arians and Semi-Arians successively draw up fresh creeds at Sirmium.
12. A.D. 357-8. Hosius falls. “ Constantius used such violence towards the old man, and confined him so straitly, that at last, broken by suffering, he was brought, though hardly, to hold communion with Valens and Ursacius [the Arian leaders], though he would not subscribe against Athanasius.” Athan. Arian. Hist. 45.
13. A.D. 357-8. And Liberius. “The tragedy was not ended in the lapse of Hosius, but in the evil which befell Liberius, the Roman Pontiff, it became far more dreadful and mournful, considering that he was Bishop of so great a city, and of the whole Catholic Church, and that he had so bravely resisted Constantine two years previously. There is nothing, whether in the historians and holy fathers, or in his own letters, to prevent our coming to the conclusion, that Liberius communicated with the Arians, and confirmed the sentence passed by them against Athanasius; but he is not at all on that account to be called a heretic.” Baron. Ann. 357, 38-45. Athanasius says: “Liberius, after he had been in banishment for two years, gave way, and from fear of threatened death was induced to subscribe.” Arian. Hist. § 41. St. Jerome says: “Liberius, tædio victus exilii, et in hæreticam pravitatem subscribens, Romam quasi victor intraverat.” Chron. ed. Val. p. 797.
14. A.D. 359. The great Councils of Seleucia and Arimi
num, being one bi-partite Council, representing the East and West respectively. At Seleucia there were 150 Bishops, of which only the twelve or thirteen from Egypt were champions of the Nicene “ Consubstantial.” At Ariminum there were as many as 400 Bishops, who, worn out by the artifice of long delay on the part of the Arians, abandoned the “ Consubstantial,” and subscribed the ambiguous formula which the heretics had substituted for it.
15. About A.D. 360, St. Hilary says: “I am not speaking of things foreign to my knowledge; I am not writing about what I am ignorant of; I have heard and I have seen the shortcomings of persons who are round about me, not of laymen, but of Bishops. For, excepting the Bishop Eleusius and a few with him, for the most part the ten Asian provinces, within whose boundaries I am situate, are truly ignorant of God.” De Syn. 63. It is observable, that even Eleusius, who is here spoken of as somewhat better than the rest, was a Semi-Arian, according to Socrates, and even a persecutor of Catholics at Constantinople; and, according to Sozomen, one of those who were active in causing Pope Liberius to give up the Nicene formula of the “ Consubstantial.” By the ten Asian provinces is meant the east and south provinces of Asia Minor, pretty nearly as cut off by a line passing from Cyzicus to Seleucia through Synnada.
16. A.D. 360. St. Gregory Nazianzen says, about this date: “Surely the pastors have done foolishly; for, excepting a very few, who either on account of their insignificance were passed over, or who by reason of their virtue resisted, and who were to be left as a seed and root for the springing up again and revival of Israel by the influences of the Spirit, all temporized, only differing from each other in this, that some succumbed earlier, and others later ; some were foremost champions and leaders in the impiety, and others joined the second rank of the battle, being overcome by fear, or by interest, or by flattery, or, what was the most excusable, by their own ignorance.” Orat. xxi. 24.
17. A.D. 361. About this time, St. Jerome says: “Nearly