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in the heretical communion. Two laymen, Flavian and Diodorus, protested with spirit against the heterodoxy of the crafty Leontius, and kept alive an orthodox party in the midst of the Eusebians.
On the translation of Eudoxius to Constantinople, the year before the death of Constantius, an accident occurred, which, skilfully improved, might have healed the incipient schisın among the Trinitarians. Scarcely had Meletius, the new Bishop of the Eusebian party, taken possession of his see, when he conformed to the Catholic faith. History describes him as gifted with remarkable sweetness and benevolence of disposition. Men thus characterized are often deficient in sensibility, in their practical judgment of heresy ; which they abhor indeed in the abstract, yet countenance in the case of their friends, from a false charitableness; which leads them, not merely to hope the best, but to overlook the guilt of opposing the truth, where the fact is undeniable. Meletius had been brought up in the communion of the Eusebians; a misfortune, in which nearly all the Oriental Christians of his day were involved. Being considered as one of their party, he had been promoted by them to the see of Sebaste, in Armenia ; but, taking offence at the conduct of his flock, he had retired to Berca, in Syria. During the residence of the Court at Antioch, A.D. 361, the election of the new prelate of that see came on; and the choice of both Arians and Arianizing orthodox fell on Meletius. Acacius was the chief mover in this business. He had lately7 succeeded in establishing the principle of liberalism at Constantinople, where a condemnation had been passed on the use of words
? Vide supra, pp. 347, 350.
not found in Scripture, in confessions of faith; and he could scarcely have selected a more suitable instrument, as it appeared, of extending its influence, than a prelate, who united purity of life and amiableness of temper, to a seeming indifference to the distinctions between doctrinal truth and error.
On the new Patriarch's arrival at Antioch, he was escorted by the court bishops, and his own clergy and laity, to the cathedral. Desirous of solemnizing the occasion, the Emperor himself had condescended to give the text, on which the assembled prelates were to comment. It was the celebrated passage from the Proverbs, in which Origen has piously detected, and the Arians perversely stified, the great article of our faith; “the Lord hath created [possessed] Me in the beginning of His ways, before His works of old.” George of Laodicea, who, on the departure of Eudoxius from Antioch, had left the Semi-Arians and rejoined the Eusebians, opened the discussion with a dogmatic explanation of the words. Acacius followed with that ambiguity of language, which was the characteristic of his school. At length the new Patriarch arose, and to the surprise of the assembly, with a subdued manner, and in measured words, avoiding indeed the Nicene Homovision, but accurately fixing the meaning of his expressions, confessed the true Catholic tenet, so long exiled from the throne and altars of Antioch. A scene followed, such as might be expected from the excitable temper of the Orientals. The congregation received his discourse with shouts of joy; while the Arian archdeacon of the church running up, placed his hand before his mouth to prevent his speaking ; on which Meletius thrust out his hand in sight of the
people, and raising first three fingers, and then one, symbolized the great truth which he was unable to utter 8 The consequences of this bold confession might be expected. Meletius was banished, and a fresh Bishop appointed, Euzoius, the friend of Arius. But an important advantage resulted to the orthodox cause by this occurrence; Catholics and heretics were no longer united in one communion, the latter being thrown into the position of schismatics, who had rejected their own bishop. Such was the state of things, when the death of Constantius occasioned the return of Meletius, and the convocation of the Council of Alexandria, in which his case was considered.
The course to be pursued in this matter by the general Church was evident. There were now in Antioch, besides the heretical party, two communions professing orthodoxy, of which what may be called the Protestant body was without a head, Eustathius having died some years before. It was the obvious duty of the Council, to recommend the Eustathians to recognize Melétius, and to join in his communion, whatever original intrusion there might be in the episcopal succession from which he received his Orders, and whatever might have been his own previous errors of doctrine. The general principle of restoration, which they had made the rule of their conduct towards the Arianizers, led them to this. Accordingly, a commission was appointed to proceed to Antioch, and to exert their endeavours to bring the dissension to a happy termination.
Their charitable intentions, however, had been already frustrated by the unfortunate interference of
8 Soz, iv. 28.
Lucifer. This Latin Bishop, strenuous in contending for the faith, had little of the knowledge of human nature, or of the dexterity in negotiation, necessary for the management of so delicate a point as that which he had taken upon himself to settle. He had gone straight to Antioch, when Eusebius of Vercellæ proceeded to Alexandria ; and, on the Alexandrian commission arriving at the former city, the mischief was done, and the mediation ineffectual. Indulging, instead of overcoming, the natural reluctance of the Eustathians to submit to Meletius, Lucifer had been induced, with the assistance of two others, to consecrate a separate head for their communion, and by so doing re-animate a dissension, which had run its course and was dying of itself. The result of this indiscretion was the rise of an additional, instead of the termination of the existing schism. Eusebius, who was at the head of the commission, retired from Antioch in disgust. Lucifer, offended at becoming the object of censure, separated first from Eusebius, and at length from all who acknowledged the conforming Arianizers. He founded a sect, which was called after his name, and lasted about fifty years.
As to the schism at Antioch, it was not terminated till the time of Chrysostom about the end of the century. Athanasius and the Egyptian Churches continued in communion with the Eustathians. Much as they had desired and exerted themselves for a reconciliation between the parties, they could not but recognize, while it existed, that body which had all along suffered and laboured with themselves. And certainly the intercourse, which Meletius held with the unprincipled Acacius, in the Antiochene
Council the following year, and his refusal to communicate with Athanasius, were not adapted to make them repent their determination. The Occidentals and the Churches of Cyprus followed their example. The Eastern Christians, on the contrary, having for the most part themselves arianized, took part with the Meletians. At length St. Chrysostom successfully exerted his infuence with the Egyptian and Western Catholics in behalf of Flavian, the successor of Meletius ; a prelate, it must be admitted, not blameless in the ecclesiastical quarrel, though he had acted a bold part with Diodorus, asterwards Bishop of Tarsus, in resisting the insidious attempts of Leontius to secularize the Church.
The Council of Alexandria was also concerned in determining a doctrinal question; and here too it exercised a virtual mediation between the rival parties in the Antiochene Church.
The word Person which we venture to use in speaking of those three distinct and real modes in which it has pleased Almighty God to reveal to us His being, is in its philosophical sense too wide for our meaning. Its essential signification, as applied to ourselves, is that of an individual intelligent agent, answering to the Greek hypostasis, or reality. On the other hand, if we restrict it to its etymological sense of persona or prosopon, that is character, it evidently means less than the Scripture doctrine, which we wish to define by
9 Vit. S. Basil, p. cix, ed. Benedict. [Basil at length succeeded in reconciling Meletius to Athanasius. Vitt. Benedictt. S. Athanasii, p. lxxxvii, and S. Basilii, p. cix.]