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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

AFTER Melitius had been ordained bishop, which was not long before the Arian controversy, he was convicted of impiety by the most holy Peter, bishop and martyr of Alexandria, and was deposed by him. But he did not acquiesce in his deposition, but excited troubles and commotions in Thebes and in the countries round Egypt, and sought the chief power in Alexandria. A letter was written to the church of Alexandria, stating what had been decreed against these innovations. It was as follows:—

SYNODICAL EPISTLE

“To the church of Alexandria which, by the grace of God, is great and holy, and to the beloved brethren in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, the bishops who have been convened to the great and holy council of Nice, send greeting in the Lord.

“The great and holy council of Nice having been convened by the grace of God, and by the appointment of the most religious emperor, Constantine, who summoned us from different provinces and cities, we judge it requisite to inform you by letter what we have debated and examined, decreed and established. In the first place, the impious perverseness of Arius was investigated before our most religious emperor, Constantine. His impiety was unanimously condemned, as well as the blasphemous sentiments which he had propounded for the purpose of dishonouring the Son of God, alleging that He was created, that before he was made he existed not, that there was a period in which he had no existence, and that he can, according to his own free-will, be capable either of virtue or of vice. The holy council condemned all these assertions, and impatiently refused to listen to such impious and foolish opinions, and such blasphemous expressions. The final decision concerning him you already know, or will soon hear; but we will not mention it now, lest we should appear to trample upon a man who has already received the recompence due to his sins. Theonas, bishop of Marmarica, and Secundus, bishop of Ptolemais, have, however, been led astray by his impiety, and have received the same sentence. But after we had, by the grace of God, been delivered from these false and blasphemous opinions, and from those persons who dared to raise discord and division among a once peaceable people; there yet remained the temerity of Melitius, and of those ordained by him. We shall now inform you, beloved brethren, of the decrees of the council on this subject. It was decided by the holy council, that Melitius should be treated with clemency though, strictly speaking, he was not worthy of the least concession, He was permitted to remain in his own city, but was divested of all power, whether of nomination or of ordination, neither was he to exercise these functions in any province or city: he only retained the mere title and the honour of the episcopal office. Those who had received ordination at his hands, were to submit to a more holy re-ordination; they were to be admitted to communion, and were to receive the honour of the ministry; but in every diocese and church they were to be accounted inferior to those who were ordained before them by Alexander, our much-honoured fellow-minister. It was decreed that they should not elect or nominate, or indeed do any thing without the consent of the bishops of the catholic and apostolical church, who are under Alexander. But those who, by the grace of God, and in answer to prayer, have been preserved from schism, and have continued blameless in the catholic and apostolic church, are to have the power of electing, and of nominating those who are worthy of tire clerical office, and are permitted to do every thing that accords with law and the authority of the church. If it should happen, that any of those now holding an office in the church should die, then let those recently admitted be advanced to the honours of the deceased, provided only that they appear worthy, and that the people choose them, and that the election be confirmed and ratified by the catholic bishop of Alexandria. The same privilege has been conceded to all the others. With respect to Melitius, however, an exception has been made, both on account of his former insubordination, and of the rashness and impetuosity of his disposition; for if the least authority were accorded to him, he might abuse it by again exciting confusion. These are the things which relate to Egypt, and to the holy church of Alexandria. If any other resolutions were carried, you will hear of them from Alexander, our most-honoured fellow-minister and brother, who will give you still more accurate information because he himself directed, as well as participated, in every thing that took place. We must also apprise you, that according to your prayers, we were all of one mind respecting the most holy paschal feast, so that our brethren of the East, who did not previously celebrate the festival as the Romans, and as you, and, indeed, as all have done from the beginning, will henceforth celebrate it with you. Rejoice, then, in the success of our undertakings, and in the general peace and concord, and in the extirpation of every schism, and receive with the greatest honour and the most fervent love, Alexander, our fellow-minister and your bishop, who imparted joy to us by his presence, and who, at a very advanced period of life, has undergone so much fatigue for the purpose of restoring peace among you. Pray for us all, that what we have equitably decreed may remain steadfast, through our Lord Jesus Christ, being done, as we trust, according to the good will of God and the Father in the Holy Ghost, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

THE CON-SUBSTANTIAL AND ETERNAL TRINITY

Notwithstanding the endeavours of that divine assembly of bishops to suppress the unsound theories of Melitius, vestiges of his infatuation remain to this day; for there are in some districts assemblies of monks who neglect sound doctrine, and observe certain vain points of discipline, upholding the same infatuated views as the Jews and the Samaritans. The great emperor also wrote to those bishops who were unable to attend the council, an account of its transactions. And I consider it of importance to insert this epistle in my work, as it clearly evidences the piety of the writer.








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