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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

IT will not be out of place here, I conceive, to give some account of Sisinnius. He was, as I have often said, remarkably eloquent, and well-instructed in philosophy. But he had particularly cultivated logic, and was profoundly skilled in the interpretation of the holy Scriptures; insomuch that the heretic Eunomius often shrank from the acumen which his reasoning displayed. He was not simple in his diet; for although he practised the strictest moderation, yet his table was always sumptuously furnished. His habits were soft and delicate, being accustomed to clothe himself in white garments, and to bathe twice a day in the public baths. And when some one asked him why he who was a bishop bathed twice a day? he replied, “Because it is inconvenient to bathe thrice.” Going one day from courtesy to visit the bishop Arsacius, he was asked by one of the friends of that prelate, why he wore a garment so unsuitable for a bishop? and where it was written that an ecclesiastic should be clothed in white? “Do you tell me first,” said he, “where it is written that a bishop should wear black?” “When he that made the enquiry knew not what to reply to this counter-query: “You cannot show,” rejoined Sisinnius, “that a priest should be clothed in black. But Solomon is my authority, whose exhortation is, ‘Let thy garments be white.’ And our Saviour in the Gospels appears clothed in white raiment: moreover he showed Moses and Elias to the apostles, clad in white garments.” His prompt reply to these and other questions called forth the admiration of those present. Again when Leontius bishop of Ancyra in Galatia Minor had taken away a church from the Novatians, and afterwards came to Constantinople, Sisinnius went to him, and begged him to restore the church. But he received him rudely, saying, “Ye Novatians ought not to have churches; for ye take away repentance, and shut out divine mercy.” To these and many other such revilings against the Novatians, Sisinnius replied: “No one repents more heartily than I do.” And when Leontius asked him on what account? “That I came to see you,” said he. On one occasion John having a contest with him, said, “The city cannot have two bishops.” “Nor has it,” said Sisinnius. John being irritated at this response, said, “You seem to pretend that you alone are the bishop.” “I do not say that,” rejoined Sisinnius; “but that I am not bishop in your estimation only, who am such to others.” John being still more chafed at this reply, said, “I will stop your preaching; for you are a heretic.” To which Sisinnius good-humouredly replied, “I will give you a reward, if you will relieve me from so arduous a duty.” John being softened a little by this answer, said, “I will not make you cease to preach, if you find it so troublesome.” So facetious was Sisinnius, and so ready at repartee: but it would be tedious to dwell further on his witticisms. The specimens we have given will serve to show what sort of a person he was. I will merely add that his uncommon erudition acquired for him the esteem and regard of the bishops who succeeded him; and that he was loved and honoured by all the leading members of the senate. He is the author of many works: but they are characterized by too great an affectation of elegance of diction, and a lavish intermingling of poetic expressions. On which account he was more admired as an orator than a writer; for there was dignity in his countenance and voice, as well as in his form and aspect, and every movement of his person was graceful. These advantages commended him to all the sects, and he was in especial favour with Atticus the bishop. But I must conclude this brief notice of Sisinnius.








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