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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

ARSENIUS was the bishop of the Melitian faction. His partizans put him in a place of concealment, and requested him to remain there. They then cut off the right hand of a corpse, embalmed it, placed it in a wooden coffin, and carried it about every where, declaring that it was the hand of Arsenius, who had been murdered by Athanasius. But the omniscient God did not permit Arsenius to remain long in concealment. It was first rumoured that he had gone to reside in Egypt; then, that he was at Thebes; afterwards he was led by Divine Providence to Tyre, where the hand represented as his had been brought before the council. The friends of Athanasius arrested him, and detained him for a time at an inn. Early one morning, as soon as the great Athanasius appeared in the council, a woman of loose principles was ushered in: she deposed in a loud and impudent manner that she had vowed perpetual virginity, but that Athanasius, who had lodged in her house, had violated her chastity. The judges of Athanasius commanded him to reply to the deposition against him; but he was silent, as if he had not been Athanasius. Timotheus, however, a presbyter, who had entered the council with the accuser, addressed her in the following terms: “Have I, O woman, ever conversed with you, or have I ever entered your house?” She replied with the utmost effrontery, railed at Timotheus, and, pointing at him with her finger, she exclaimed, “It was by you that the act of violence was committed upon me;” and she added other indelicate expressions which are used by women destitute of all modesty. Those who had devised this calumny, and the judges who were cognizant of it, were covered with confusion, and the woman was dismissed. Athanasius said that instead of sending her away they ought to ascertain from her the names of those by whom she had been employed; but his accusers replied that he had perpetrated other flagrant crimes, of which it was utterly impossible that he could by any art be exonerated; and that eyes, even without ears, were sufficient to demonstrate his culpability. Having said this, they exhibited the celebrated coffin, and exposed the embalmed hand to view. At this sight, all the spectators uttered a loud cry. Some believed the accusation to be true; the others suspected the falsehood, and thought that Arsenius was lurking somewhere or other in concealment. When at length, after some difficulty, silence was obtained, the accused asked his judges whether any of them knew Arsenius. Several of them replying that they had been intimately acquainted with him, Athanasius gave orders that he should be brought before them. Then he again asked them, whether that was the same Arsenius whom he was accused of having assassinated, and of having afterwards insulted, by cutting off his right hand. When they had confessed that it was the same individual, Athanasius raised both the sides of his cloak, so as to display his two hands, and said, “No man has received more than two hands from the Creator.” The calumniators and the judges who were privy to the crime, instead of hiding themselves, or praying that the earth might open and engulph them, raised an uproar and commotion in the assembly, and declared that Athanasius was a sorcerer, and that he had by his magical incantations bewitched the eyes of men. They strove to tear him in pieces, and to kill him, although only a short time previously they had condemned him on a charge of murder. But those whom the emperor had entrusted with the preservation of order, saved the life of Athanasius by dragging him away from them, and hurrying him on board a ship. When he was presented to the emperor, he described all the stratagems which had been employed against him. The calumniators sent bishops attached to their faction into Mareota. Theognis, bishop of Nice, Theodore, bishop of Perinthus, Maris, bishop of Chalcedonia, Narcissus, bishop of Cilicia, with others of the same sentiments, were selected for this purpose. Mareota is situated near Alexandria, and derives its name from the lake Mareotis. Here they invented other falsehoods, renewed their former artifices, and framed groundless accusations, which they caused to be laid before the emperor.








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