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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

THE odium against John Chrysostom was considerably increased by another cause. Two bishops flourished at that time, Syrians by birth, named Severian and Antiochus; the former of whom presided over the church at Gabali, a city of Syria, the latter over that of Ptolemaïs in Phœnicia. They were both renowned for their eloquence; but although Severian was a very learned man, his pronunciation of Greek was defective, from his retaining somewhat of the Syriac accent. Antiochus came first to Constantinople, where he preached in the churches for some time with great zeal and ability; and having thereby amassed a large sum of money, he returned to his own church. Severian hearing that Antiochus had enriched himself by his visit to Constantinople, determined to follow his example: he therefore exercised himself for the occasion, and having prepared a quantity of sermons, set out for the imperial city. He was most kindly received by John, whom at first he soothed and flattered, and was beloved and honoured by him: meanwhile his discourses gained him great celebrity, so that he attracted the notice of many persons of rank, and even of the emperor himself. It happened at that time that the bishop of Ephesus died, on which account John was obliged to go thither for the purpose of ordaining a successor. On his arrival at that city, finding the people divided in their choice, some proposing one person, and some another, and perceiving from the pertinacity of the contending parties that nothing but altercation was likely to ensue, he resolved to quietly end the dispute by preferring to the bishopric Heraclides a deacon of his own, and a Cypriot by descent. As however the disorder was increased for awhile by clamours against this election, and allegations of the unfitness of Heraclides for the office, the settlement of this affair detained him a long time at Ephesus; during which Severian continued to preach at Constantinople, and daily grew in favour with his auditory. Of this John was not left ignorant, for he was continually made acquainted with whatever occurred by Serapion, of whom we have before spoken. To this person John had the greatest attachment, and had entrusted to him the entire charge of the episcopate, inasmuch as he was pious, faithful, extremely trustworthy, and very devoted to his interests. By him the bishop was aroused to a feeling of jealousy, by the assurance that Severian was troubling the church. Having therefore among other matters, deprived many of the Novatians and Quartodecimani of their churches, he returned to Constantinople, and resumed the care of the churches under his own especial jurisdiction. But Serapion’s arrogance was beyond all bearing; for thus possessing John’s unbounded confidence and regard, he was so puffed up by it, that he treated every one with contempt. And this contributed not a little to inflame the minds of the insulted parties against the bishop who patronised him. But between Serapion the deacon, and Severian the bishop, much dissension arose; the former opposing Severian because he endeavoured to outshine John in eloquence, and the latter envying Serapion because of John’s love for him, and the administration of the bishopric having been committed to him. While their minds were thus affected toward one another, an incident occurred which greatly increased their mutual enmity. On one occasion when Severian passed by him, Serapion neglected to pay him the homage due to his dignity, by retaining his seat instead of rising, as if to show how little he cared for his presence. Severian being indignant at this supposed rudeness and contempt, said with a loud voice to those present, “If Serapion dies a Christian, Christ has not been incarnate.” Serapion took occasion from this remark, to publicly incite Chrysostom against Severian: for suppressing the first clause of the sentence, “If Serapion dies a Christian,” he accused him of having asserted “Christ has not been incarnate;” and this charge was sustained by several witnesses of his own party. The whole matter having afterward come under the cognizance of a Synod, Serapion affirmed on oath that he did not see the bishop; on which account those convened pardoned him, and entreated Severian to accept this excuse. John moreover as some atonement to Severian, suspended Serapion from his office of deacon for a week, although he used him as his right hand in all ecclesiastical matters, in which he had great expertness. But Severian wished him to be not only divested of his diaconate, but excommunicated also, to which John would by no means consent: but going out of the council in disgust, he left the bishops to determine the cause, saying, “Do you decide as you think fit, for I will have nothing to do in the matter.” The whole Synod rose at these words, censuring the obduracy of Severian, and leaving the case as it before stood. From that time John admitted of no further intimacy with Severian, but advised him to leave the city, and return to his own country, addressing him thus:—“It is inexpedient, Severian, that you should so long absent yourself from your diocese, which must now need the presence of its bishop. Hasten back therefore to the churches entrusted to your care, and neglect not the gift with which God has endowed you.” He accordingly departed. But when this became known to the empress Eudoxia, she severely reprimanded John, and ordered that Severian should be immediately recalled from Chalcedon in Bithynia, whither he had gone. He returned forthwith; but John would hold no intercourse whatever with him, nor could he be induced to do so by the mediation of any one. At length the empress Eudoxia herself, in the church called the Apostles, placed her son Theodosius (who now so happily reigns, but was then quite an infant) before John’s knees, and adjuring him repeatedly by the young prince her son, with difficulty prevailed upon him to be reconciled to Severian. In this manner was there an appearance of friendship renewed between these persons; but they nevertheless retained a rancorous feeling toward each other. Such was the origin of their mutual animosity.








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