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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

AFTER the death of the wicked tyrants, Maxentius, Maximin, and Licinius, the storm abated which their atrocity had, like a furious whirlwind, excited against the church: the hostile winds were hushed, and tranquillity ensued. This was effected, by Constantine, a prince deserving of the highest praise, who, like the divine apostle, was not called by man or through man, but by God. He enacted laws prohibiting sacrifices to idols, and commanding churches to be erected. He appointed believers to be the governors of the provinces, ordered that honour should be shown to the priests, and threatened with death those who dared to insult them. The churches which had been destroyed were rebuilt, and others still more spacious and magnificent than the former ones were erected. Hence the concerns of the church were smiling and prosperous, while those of her opponents were involved in disgrace and ruin. The temples of the idols were closed; but frequent assemblies were held, and festivals celebrated in the churches. But the devil, the enemy of mankind, although conscious that the church was upheld by the Creator and Ruler of the world, could not see her in the enjoyment of so much prosperity without devising plans for her destruction. When he perceived that his former artifices had been detected, that the error of idolatry was recognised, and that the greater number of men worshipped the Creator, instead of adoring, as heretofore, the creature, he did not dare to declare open war against our God and Saviour; but having found some who, though bearing the name of Christians, were yet slaves to ambition and vainglory, he thought them fit instruments for the execution of his designs. He, accordingly, used them as the means of drawing others back into error, not indeed by the former artifice of setting up the worship of the creature, but by attempting to bring down the Creator to a level with the creature. I shall now proceed to relate where and by what means he sowed these tares.

Alexandria is a large and populous city, and is considered the metropolis not only of Egypt, but also of the adjacent countries, Thebes and Lybia. After Peter, the illustrious champion of the faith, had, during the sway of wicked tyrants, obtained the crown of martyrdom, the church in Alexandria was ruled for a short time by Achillas. He was succeeded by Alexander, [A.D. 312,] who was the foremost in defending the doctrines of the gospel. Arius, whose name was then enrolled among the presbytery, and who was entrusted with the exposition of the holy scriptures, fell a prey to uncontrollable jealousy, when he saw that all the power of the priesthood was committed to Alexander. Under the influence of this passion, he sought opportunities for dispute and contention; and, although he perceived that Alexander’s conduct was far above the reach of detraction, he could not subdue the envy by which he was tormented. The enemy of truth made use of him to plunge the church into trouble, by exciting him to oppose the apostolical doctrines held by Alexander, who, receiving the testimony of the holy scriptures, taught that the Son is equal with the Father, and of the same substance with God who begat him. Arius inveighed in direct terms against this truth, and affirmed that the Son of God is merely a creature or created being, and that there was a time when He had no existence: the other opinions which he advanced may be learned from his own writings. He taught these false doctrines not only in the church, but also in general meetings and assemblies; and he even went from house to house, endeavouring to draw men over to his sentiments. Alexander, who was strongly attached to the doctrines of the apostles, at first endeavoured by arguments and remonstrances to convince him of his error; but when he found that he had had the madness to make a public declaration of his impiety, he ejected him from the order of the presbytery, according to the precept of the word of God, “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee.”








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