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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

WHEN the Emperor was made acquainted with these disorders, he was very deeply grieved; and regarding the matter as his own misfortune, immediately exerted himself to extinguish the conflagration which had been kindled. To this end he sent a letter to Alexander and Arius by a trustworthy person named Hosius, who was bishop of Cordova in Spain, and whom the emperor greatly loved and held in the highest estimation. It will not be out of place to introduce here a portion of this letter, the whole of which is given in the life of Constantine by Eusebius.

VICTOR CONSTANTINE MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS, TO ALEXANDER AND ARIUS

“Your present controversy, I am informed, originated thus. When you, Alexander, inquired of your Presbyters what were the sentiments of each on a certain inexplicable passage of the written Word, thereby mooting a subject improper for discussion; you, Arius, rashly gave expression to a view of the matter such as ought either never to have been conceived, or if indeed it had been suggested to your mind, it became you to bury in silence. Dissension having thus been excited among you, communion has been denied; and the most holy people being rent into two factions, have departed from the harmony of the common body. Wherefore let each reciprocally pardoning the other, listen to the impartial exhortation of your fellow-servant. And what counsel does he offer? It was neither prudent at first to agitate such a question, nor to reply to such a question when proposed: for the claim of no law demands the investigation of such subjects, but the disputatious cavilling of ill-employed leisure puts them forward. And even admitting them to be calculated to exercise our natural abilities, yet ought we to confine them to our own consideration, and not incautiously bring them forth in public assemblies, nor thoughtlessly confide them to the ears of everybody. Indeed how few are capable either of adequately expounding, or even accurately understanding the import of matters so vast and profound! And if any one should imagine that he can satisfactorily accomplish this, how large a portion of the people would he succeed in convincing? Or who can grapple with the subtilties of such investigations without danger of lapsing into excessive error? It becomes us therefore on such topics to check loquacity, lest either on account of the impotence of our nature we should be incompetent to explain the subject proposed; or the dull understanding of the audience should incapacitate them for clearly apprehending what is attempted to be taught: for in the case of one or the other of these failures, the people must be necessarily involved either in blasphemy or schism. Wherefore let an unguarded question, and an inconsiderate answer, on the part of each of you, procure equal forgiveness from one another. No cause of difference has been started by you bearing on any important precept contained in the Law; nor has any new heresy been introduced by you in connection with the worship of God; but ye both hold one and the same judgment on these points, so that nothing exists to hinder association in communion. Moreover while you thus pertinaciously contend with one another about matters of small or scarcely the least importance, and especially with such virulence of feeling, it is unsuitable for you to have charge of so many people of God: and not only is it unbecoming, but it is also believed to be altogether unlawful.

“Permit me further to remind you of your duty by an example of an inferior kind. You are well aware that even the philosophers themselves, while all confederated under one Sect, yet often disagree with each other on some parts of their theories: but although they may differ in their views on the very highest branches of science, yet in order to maintain the unity of their body, they still agree to coalesce. Now if this is done amongst them, how much more equitable will it be for you, who have been constituted ministers of the Most High God, to become unanimous with one another in the same religious profession. But let us examine with closer consideration, and deeper attention, what has been already stated. Is it right on account of insignificant and vain contentions between you about words, that Brethren should be set in opposition against Brethren; and that the venerable Assembly should be distracted by unhallowed dissension, through your striving with one another respecting things so unimportant, and by no means essential? These quarrels are indeed derogatory to your character, being rather consistent with puerile thoughtlessness, than suitable to the intelligence of Priests and prudent men. We should spontaneously turn aside from the temptations of the devil. The great God and Saviour of us all, has extended to all the common light. Under his providence, allow me, his servant, to bring this effort of mine to a successful issue; that by my exhortation, ministry, and earnest admonition, I may lead you, his people, back to unity of assembly. For since, as I have observed, there is but one faith among you, and one sentiment respecting religion; and since the precept of the Law, in all its parts, combines all in one purpose of soul, let not this diversity of opinion, which has excited among you mutual dissension, by any means cause discord and schism, inasmuch as the cause of it touches not the force of any law. I say these things, not as compelling you all to see exactly alike on the subject of this controversy, of small moment as it is; since the dignity of the general assembly may be preserved unaffected, and the same communion with all be retained, although there should exist among you some dissimilarity of sentiment on unimportant matters. For we do not all desire the same thins: in every respect; nor is there one unvarying nature, or standard of judgment in us. Therefore in regard to Divine providence, let there be one faith, one sentiment, and one covenant of the Godhead: but respecting those minute investigations which ye enter into among yourselves with so much nicety, even if ye should not concur in one judgment, it becomes you to confine them to your own reflection, and to keep them in the secret recesses of the mind. Let then an ineffable and select bond of general friendship, with faith in the truth, reverence for God, and a devout observance of his law, remain unshaken among you. Resume the exercise of mutual friendship and grace; restore to the whole people their accustomed familiar embraces; and do ye yourselves, having purified your own souls, again recognise one another: for friendship often becomes sweeter after the removal of animosity. Return again therefore to a state of reconciliation; and by so doing give back to me tranquil days, and nights free from care; that to me also there may be some pleasure in the pure light, and that a cheerful serenity may be preserved to me during the rest of my life. But if this should not be effected, I must necessarily groan, and be wholly suffused with tears; neither will the remaining period of my earthly existence be peacefully sustained: for while the people of God (I speak of my fellow-servants) are dissevered by so unworthy and injurious a contest with one another, how is it possible for me to maintain my usual equanimity? But in order that you may have some idea of my excessive grief on account of this unhappy difference, listen to what I am about to state. On my recent arrival at the city of Nicomedia, it was my intention immediately after to proceed into the East: but while I was hastening toward you, and had advanced a considerable distance on my way, intelligence of this affair altogether reversed my purpose, lest I should be obliged to see with my own eyes a condition of things such as I could scarcely bear the report of. Open to me therefore by your unanimity henceforth, the way into the East, which ye have obstructed by your contentions against one another: and permit me speedily to behold both you and all the rest of the people rejoicing together; and to express my due thanks to the Divine Being, because of the general unanimity and liberty of all parties, accompanied by the cordial utterance of your praise.”








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