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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

AFTER Flaccillus, the successor of Stephen, had been ejected from the church, Leontius succeeded to the chief authority in Antioch, contrary to the decrees of the Nicean council; for he was an eunuch, and had rendered himself such. St. Athanasius relates the cause of this act. Leontius had given rise to evil reports by frequenting the society of a young woman named Eustolia; he was therefore forbidden to hold further intercourse with her. He rendered himself an eunuch in order that he might enjoy her society without creating surmises. But he did not thus escape suspicion; and, as he was a priest, he was deposed. Athanasius thus described the other events of the life of Leontius. “I shall give a brief account of his deceitfulness and of his artifices. He participated in the errors of Arius, but carefully concealed his impiety. Perceiving that the clergy and laity were divided in opinion, and that when praise was offered to the Son, some introduced the conjunctive particle ‘and,’ while others made use of the preposition ‘by,’ with reference to the Son, and of ‘in’ with reference to the Holy Ghost, he repeated the doxologies in an under tone of voice, so that those who were placed nearest him could only hear these words, ‘for ever and ever.’ If so many proofs of his wickedness had not existed, it might have been said, that he did this simply with the design of restoring concord among the people. But his numerous and cruel machinations against the defenders of the truth, and the care and favour which he bestowed on those who had adopted impious principles, show plainly that he concealed his infatuated views from the fear of exciting the indignation of the multitude, and of incurring the severe penalties threatened by Constantius against all who should dare to affirm that the Son is dissimilar from the Father. He, however, manifested his sentiments by his actions. He never ordained or raised to any office of trust those who adhered to the apostolical doctrines, while those who clung to the Arian infatuation were allowed complete freedom of action, and were promoted to ecclesiastical dignities. About this time Aëtius, who had added new errors to the Arian doctrines, was ordained deacon. But Flavianus and Diodorus, who had embraced the monastical mode of life, and who publicly defended the doctrines of the apostles, exposed the artifices of Leontius against religion, and showed how he had elevated to the rank of deacon a man who had imbibed the most corrupt principles, and who sought to render himself conspicuous by his impiety. They even threatened to withdraw themselves from ecclesiastical communion with him, and to go to the West in order to make known his plots. Leontius was terrified at these threats, and forbade Aëtius from performing the duties of the ministry; but in other respects he continued to patronize him. Although Flavianus and Diodorus were not elevated to the rank of the priesthood, but were merely laymen, yet by night and by day they exhorted all men to be zealous in religion. They were the first who divided the choir and taught them to sing the Psalms of David responsively. This custom, which they thus originated in Antioch, spread every where, even to the very ends of the habitable world. These two men used to assemble with the people around the tombs of the martyrs, to sing throughout the whole night the praises of God. When Leontius became acquainted with this proceeding he did not dare to prohibit it; for he perceived that these men were held in the highest estimation by the multitude on account of their virtues. He requested them in a mild and specious manner to perform this service in the church. They obeyed this injunction, although they perceived his evil motives, and willingly assembled in the church with those who shared in their love, in order to sing to the praise of the Lord. But nothing could abate the malice of Leontius. Under a mild and plausible exterior he concealed the deep iniquity of Stephen and of Flaccillus. He raised to the rank of priests and of deacons those who had embraced heretical doctrines, and who led a dissolute course of life. Those, on the contrary, who were adorned with every virtue, and who adhered to the apostolical faith, received no promotion from him. Hence many persons infected with heretical errors were thrust into the clerical office. Yet the greater part of the people continued attached to orthodox doctrines. Indeed those upon whom the duty of teaching had devolved, did not dare to declare their blasphemous sentiments openly. It would take much space to recount the impiety and the acts of injustice perpetrated by Flaccillus, Stephen, and Leontius; the complaint of David is applicable to them, for he says, ‘Lo, thine enemies make a tumult, and they that hate thee have lifted up the head. They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and have consulted against thy holy ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.’ ”

We must now continue our history.








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