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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

THE emperor, who possessed the most profound wisdom, had no sooner heard of the troubles of the church, than he endeavoured to put an end to them. He, therefore, despatched a messenger of considerable sagacity to Alexandria with letters, believing that he would be able to put an end to the dispute, and reconcile the disputants. But his hopes were frustrated by the result of this undertaking; and he, therefore, proceeded to summon the celebrated council of Nice; and commanded that the bishops, and those connected with them, should be mounted on the asses, mules, and horses belonging to the public, in order to repair thither. When all those who were capable of enduring the fatigue of the journey had arrived at Nice, he went thither himself, as much from the wish of seeing the bishops, as from the desire of preserving unanimity amongst them. He arranged that all their wants should be liberally supplied. Three hundred and eighteen bishops were assembled. The bishop of Rome, on account of his very advanced age, was necessarily absent, but he sent two presbyters to the council, for the purpose of taking part in all the transactions. At this period, individuals were richly endowed with apostolical gifts; and many, like the holy apostle, bore in their bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ. James, bishop of Antioch, a city of Mygdonia, which is called Nisibis by the Syrians and Assyrians, had power to raise the dead, and to restore them to life: he performed many wonderful miracles, which it would be superfluous to mention in detail in this history, as I have already given an account of this in my work, entitled Philotheus. Paul, bishop of Neo-Cæsarea, a fortress situated on the banks of the Euphrates, had suffered much from the cruelty of Licinius. He had been deprived of the use of both hands by the application of a red hot iron, by which the nerves which give motion to the muscles had been contracted and destroyed. Some had had the right eye torn out, others had lost the right arm. Among the latter sufferers was Paphnutius of Egypt. In short, this was an assembly of martyrs. Yet this holy and celebrated assembly was not free from those of a contentious spirit; there were certainly few of this class; yet they were as dangerous as sunken rocks, for they concealed the evil, while they profanely coincided in the blasphemy of Arius. When they were all assembled, the emperor ordered a large apartment to be prepared for their accommodation in the palace, in which a sufficient number of seats were placed; and here the bishops were summoned to hold their deliberations upon the proposed subjects. The emperor, attended by a few followers, was the last to enter the room; his personal beauty attracted much admiration, which was increased by his extreme modesty. A low stool was placed for him in the middle of the assembly, upon which, however, he did not seat himself until he had asked the permission of the bishops; and they all then sat down around him. The great Eustathius, bishop of Antioch, who, upon the death of Philogonius, already referred to, had been appointed his successor by the unanimous suffrages of the priests and of the people, and of believers, was the first to speak. He pronounced a panegyric upon the emperor, and commended the diligent attention he had manifested in the regulation of ecclesiastical affairs. At the close of this speech, the excellent emperor exhorted them to unanimity and concord; he recalled to their remembrance the cruelty of the late tyrants, and reminded them of the honourable peace which God had, at this period and by his means, accorded them. And he remarked, how very grievous it was, that at the very time when their enemies were destroyed, and when no one dared to molest them, that they should fall upon one another, and afford matter for diversion and ridicule to their adversaries, while they were debating about holy things which ought to be determined by the written word, indited by the Holy Spirit, which they possessed. “For the gospel,” (continued he,) “the apostolical writings, and the ancient prophecies clearly teach us what we are to believe concerning the divine nature. Let then all contentious disputation be set aside; and let us seek in the divinely inspired word, the solution of all doubtful topics.” These and similar exhortations he, like an affectionate son, addressed to the bishops as to fathers, desiring their accordance in the apostolical doctrines. Most of those present were won over by his arguments, established concord among themselves, and embraced sound doctrine. There were, however, a few, of whom mention has been already made, who opposed these doctrines, and sided with Arius; and amongst them were Menophantus, bishop of Ephesus, Patrophilus, bishop of Scythopolitanus, Theognis, bishop of Nice, and Narcissus, bishop of Neroniadis, which is a town of the second Cilicia, and is now called Irenopolis; also Theonas, bishop of Marmarica, and Secundus, bishop of Ptolemais in Egypt. They drew up a declaration of their creed, and presented it to the council. Instead of being recognised, it was torn to pieces, and was declared to be spurious and false. So great was the uproar raised against them, and so many were the reproaches cast on them for having betrayed religion, that they all, with the exception of Secundus and Theonas, stood up and excommunicated Arius. This impious man, having thus been expelled from the church, a confession of faith which is received to this day was drawn up by unanimous consent; and as soon as it was signed, the council was dissolved. The bishops above-mentioned, however, did not consent to it in sincerity, but only in appearance. This was evidenced afterwards by their plotting against those who were foremost in zeal for religion, as well as by what these latter have written about them. Eustathius, bishop of Antioch, who has been already mentioned, when explaining a portion of the Proverbs, “God created me in the beginning of his ways, before his works,” wrote against them, and refuted their blasphemy.








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