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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

AFTER Arius had remained a long time in Alexandria, he endeavoured to obtrude himself again into the councils of the Church, sometimes by professing to renounce his impiety, and at others by promising to receive the confession of faith drawn up by the fathers. But not succeeding in obtaining the confidence of Alexander, nor of his worthy successor and virtuous imitator Athanasius, he, through the exertions of Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, went to settle in Constantinople. The intrigues upon which he then entered, and the just punishment which befel him, are all far better narrated by Athanasius, in a letter addressed to Apian, than they are elsewhere; I shall now insert some extracts from this letter.

“I was not at Constantinople when he died; but Macarius, the presbyter, was there, and from him I learnt all the circumstances. The emperor Constantine was induced by the party of Eusebius to send for Arius. Upon his arrival, the emperor asked him whether he held the faith of the Catholic church. Arius replied with oaths that his faith was orthodox, and presented a written summary of his belief; concealing, however, the reasons of his ejection from the Church by the bishop Alexander, and deceitfully endeavouring to imitate the language of the Holy Scriptures. When, therefore, he had declared upon oath that he did not hold the errors for which he had been expelled from the Church by Alexander, Constantine dismissed him, saying, ‘If your faith be orthodox, your oaths are honourable; but if you do not really hold that belief which you have professed upon oath, God will judge you from heaven.’ When he quitted the emperor, the partizans of Eusebius, with their usual violence, desired to restore him to communion with the Church; but Alexander, of blessed memory, bishop of Constantinople, remonstrated against this measure, alleging that the originator of a schism ought not to be admitted into communion. Then the rest of the partizans of Eusebius began to menace him in the following terms: ‘As against your will we succeeded in prevailing on the emperor to send for Arius, so will we now, in opposition to your opinion, take measures to have Arius associated with us in this church to-morrow.’ It was on Saturday that they said this. The bishop Alexander, deeply grieved at what he had heard, went into the church and mourned, raising his hands in supplication to God; and he prostrated himself at the foot of the altar, and prayed. Macarius went in with him, prayed with him, and heard what petitions he uttered. He asked one of two things. ‘If Arius,’ said he, ‘is to be joined to the Church to-morrow, dismiss me thy servant, and do not destroy the pious with the impious. If thou forgivest thy Church, and I know that thou dost forgive her, look upon the words of the followers of Eusebius, and give not over thy heritage to destruction and to shame. Cut off Arius, lest if he enter into communion with the Church, heresy enter also. and impiety be found conjoined with piety.’ Having thus prayed, the bishop left the church in a state of deep mental anxiety. A horrible and unexpected catastrophe ensued. The partizans of Eusebius had launched out into threats, while the bishop had recourse to prayer. Arius, emboldened by the protection of his party, delivered many trifling and foolish speeches, when he was suddenly compelled by the calls of nature to retire, ‘and immediately,’ as it is written, ‘he burst asunder, fell down, and expired, being deprived at once both of communion and of life.’ This, then, was the end of Arius. The partizans of Eusebius were covered with shame; yet, as he had held the same sentiments as themselves, they buried him. Alexander was filled with joy, and rejoiced with the Church in the re-establishment of piety and of orthodoxy; he prayed with all the brethren, and glorified God. This was not because he rejoiced at the death of Arius—far from it, for all men must die; but it was because his mode of death surpassed the judgment of man. For God, when passing judgment upon the menaces of the partizans of Eusebius and the prayer of Alexander, condemned the Arian heresy, showing that it was unworthy of being received into the communion of the Church; and thus manifesting that although it received the countenance and support of the emperor, and of all men, yet that it was condemned by truth. These were the first fruits, reaped by Arius, of those pernicious seeds which he had himself sown, forming the prelude to those punishments that await him in futurity. His sufferings, form, as it were, a recital of his impiety.”

I shall now turn the discourse upon the virtues of the emperor. He addressed a letter to all the subjects of the Roman empire, exhorting them to renounce their former superstitions, and to embrace the doctrines of our Saviour. He exhorted the bishops in every city to build churches, and encouraged them not only by words, but also by presenting them with large sums of money, adequate to defray all the expenses of building. This he explains in his own letter, which is as follows:—








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