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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

AFTER the death of Constans, Magnentius assumed the chief authority over the Western empire; and, to repress his usurpation, Constantius repaired to Europe. But this war, severe as it was, did not put an end to the war against the church. The Arians, who found it easy to persuade Constantius to take any step which they pleased, and who had accordingly induced him to attach himself to the errors of heresy, now persuaded him to convoke a council at Milan, a city of Italy, and to compel all the assembled bishops to sign the deposition enacted by the iniquitous judges at Tyre; and, as Athanasius had been expelled from the church, to draw up another confession of faith. The bishops repaired to the council on the receipt of the imperial letter. But they were far from acting according to the directions of the emperor. On the contrary, they told him that what he had commanded was unjust and impious; for this act of courage they were expelled from the church, and banished to the furthest boundaries of the empire.

The admirable Athanasius thus mentions this circumstance in his defence:—“Who can narrate such atrocities as they perpetrated? A short time ago when the churches were in the enjoyment of peace, and just as the people were assembled for prayer, Liberius, bishop of Rome, Paulinus, bishop of the metropolis of Gaul, Dionysius, bishop of the metropolis of Italy, Lucifer, bishop of the metropolis of the Isle of Sardinia, and Eusebius, bishop of one of the cities of Italy, who were all exemplary bishops and preachers of the truth, were seized and driven into exile, for no other cause than because they could not coincide in the Arian heresy, nor sign the false accusation which had been framed against us. It is unnecessary that I should speak of the great Hosius, that aged and faithful confessor of the faith, for every one knows that he also has been sent into banishment. Of all the bishops he is the most illustrious. What council can be mentioned in which he did not preside, and convince all present by the power of his reasoning? what church does not still enjoy the glorious effects of his ministration? did any one ever go to him sorrowing, and not leave him rejoicing? Who ever asked his aid, and did not obtain all that he desired? Yet they had the boldness to attack this great man, simply because, from his knowledge of the impiety of their calumnies, he refused to affix his signature to their artful accusations against us.”

From the above narrative will be seen the violence of the Arians against these holy men. Athanasius also gives in the same book an account of the numerous plots formed by the chiefs of the Arian faction against other individuals:—“did any one,” said he, “against whom they had once commenced a series of persecutions, ever escape from them without suffering severe injury? Whose life did they ever seek without eventually subjecting him to the most agonizing death, or else to the mutilation of all his limbs? The executions commanded by the judges are all attributable to these heretics; for the judges are but the agents of their will, and of their malice. Where is there a place which contains no vestiges of their atrocities? If any one ever differed from them in opinion, did they not invariably, like Jezebel, falsely accuse and oppress him? Where is there a church which has not been plunged in sorrow by their subtlety? Antioch has to mourn the loss of Eustathius, that faithful and orthodox bishop. Balana has to lament on account of Euphration; Paltus and Antaradus on account of Cymatius and Carterius. Adrianople was called to deplore the loss of the well-beloved Eutropius, and of Lucius his successor, who was loaded with chains, and expired beneath their weight. Ancyra, Berea, and Gaza had to mourn the absence of Marcellus, Cyrus and Asclepas, who, after having suffered many insults from this deceitful sect, were driven into exile. Some of these heretics were sent in quest of Theodulus and Olympius, bishops of Thrace, as well as of me and of the presbytery of my diocese; and had they found us, we should no doubt have been put to death. But at the very time that they were planning our destruction we effected our escape, although they had sent letters to Donas, the proconsul, against Olympias, and to Philagrius against us.”

Such were the crimes of this impious faction against the most holy Christians. Hosius was the bishop of Corduba, and was the most highly distinguished of all those who assembled at the council of Nice, he also obtained the first place among those convened at Sardica.

I intend to insert in this work an account of the admirable arguments addressed by the far-famed Liberius in defence of the truth to the emperor Constantius. They are recorded by some of the pious men of that period in order to stimulate others to the exercise of similar zeal in divine things. Liberius had succeeded Julius, the successor of Silvester, in the government of the church of Rome.








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