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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

THOSE who adhered to the apostolical doctrines were, as we have already stated, divided into two parties. One party had seceded from detestation of the perfidy of the Arians immediately after the insidious machinations which they had formed against the great Eusebius, and had assembled apart under the pastoral care of Paulinus. It was not till after the ordination of Euzoius that the other party, who were then ruled by Melitius, separated from the impious Arians. Besides these separatists, Apollinaris of Laodicea had made himself the head of another party. He at first appeared to adhere to piety, and to defend the apostolical doctrines; but it soon became evident that he was hostile to these principles. He advanced very corrupt hypotheses respecting the Divine nature, which he represented as comprising degrees of perfection; and he had the boldness to declare that the mysterious dispensation of redemption is imperfect; and that the reasoning soul, whose office it is to guide the body, has no part in salvation. He said that the Word, who is God, did not at his incarnation assume this principle of our nature, and that it was neither honoured nor redeemed by Him. Thus the body, which is earthy, is supposed to be revered by invisible powers, while the soul which was made in the image of God is considered inferior to it, being regarded as immersed in sin and dishonour. The deplorable blindness of his understanding led him to circulate many other errors. Sometimes he agreed in the doctrine that Christ assumed flesh of the holy virgin; at others, he said that His human body descended with the Word from heaven; and, at other times, he said that the Word took flesh without assuming our nature. He mixed up with the Divine promises, fables and idle fictions, which are not worth recounting here. By these false doctrines he not only seduced his own party, but also deluded some who belonged to ours. When, at a subsequent period, those whom he had deceived were led to contrast the weakness of their sect with the majesty and numerical superiority of the church, they all, with few exceptions, returned to the church, and entered into communion with her; yet they retained their impious sentiments. This is the root whence has sprung an evil doctrine now prevalent in the church. Those who hold this doctrine affirm that the human and Divine natures of Christ form but one nature; they attribute the capacity of suffering to the Divine nature of the only begotten Son, and teach many other errors which have excited great controversy among the laity and the clergy. But all the above incidents did not occur till after the period at present under consideration.

When Sapor, the commander, arrived in Antioch, and proclaimed the mandate of the emperor, Paulinus promised to communicate on the subject with Damasis. Apollinaris also made the same promise; but this he did in order to conceal the heterodoxy of his opinions. St. Melitius remained a quiet spectator of their contention. The wise Flavius, who ranked at that period among the presbyters, addressed Paulinus in the following manner, in the presence of Sapor: “If you are in communion, O friend, with Damasis, prove to us clearly that your doctrines are in accordance with his. He declared that in the Trinity there is one substance and three persons; you, on the contrary, deny that there are three persons in the Trinity. If you agree with him in doctrine, you shall receive authority over the churches.” Having thus convicted and silenced Paulinus, he next addressed Apollinaris. “I am amazed, O friend,” said he, “at the shameless manner in which you have opposed truth. You clearly understand that Damasis asserts that God the Word assumed the nature of complete humanity. You, however, maintain a contrary doctrine. You say that the soul is excluded from salvation. If this be a false accusation, prove it to be so by denouncing the innovations which are attributed to you; embrace the doctrine of Damasis, and receive possession of the churches.” With these words the wise Flavins closed his discourse. Then Melitius, the mildest of men, addressed Paulinus in a kind and affectionate manner: “As God,” said he, “committed to me the care of this flock, and as you have received the charge of another, and as our respective sheep hold the same doctrines of religion, let us, O friend, unite our flocks; let us throw aside all contests for superiority, and tend with equal assiduity the sheep entrusted to us. If the episcopal chair of this city be to us a matter of contention, let us place the holy gospel upon it, and let us seat ourselves on each side of it. If I die first, you, O friend, will become the only ruler of the flock: but if your death occur before mine, I will, as far as I am able, tend the flock alone.” Paulinus, however, refused to comply with the offer so kindly and affectionately made by Melitius. The general, after reflecting on what had been stated, gave up the churches to the holy Melitius. Paulinus continued to rule those who had from the beginning separated themselves from the rest of the flock.








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