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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

MEANWHILE Atticus the bishop caused the affairs of the church to flourish in an extraordinary manner; administering all things with singular prudence, and inciting the people to virtue by his discourses. Perceiving the church to be divided by the Johannists assembling themselves apart, he ordered that mention of John should be made in the prayers, as was customary to be done of the other deceased prelates; by which means he trusted that many would be induced to return to the church. His liberality was so great that he not only provided for the poor of his own churches, but transmitted contributions to supply the wants and promote the comfort of the indigent in the neighbouring cities also. On one occasion he sent to Calliopius a presbyter of the church at Nice, three hundred pieces of gold with the following letter.

“Atticus to Calliopius—salutations in the Lord.

“I have been informed that there are in your city a great number of necessitous persons, whose condition demands the compassion of the pious. As therefore I have received a sum of money from him, who with a bountiful hand is wont to supply faithful stewards; and since it happens that some are pressed by want, that those who have may be proved, who yet do not minister to the needy—take, my friend, these three hundred pieces of gold, and dispose of them as you may think fit. It will be your care, I doubt not, to distribute to such as are ashamed to beg, to the exclusion of those who through life have sought to feed themselves at others’ expense. In bestowing these alms I would have no distinction made on religious grounds; but feed the hungry whether they agree with us in sentiment, or not.”

Thus did Atticus consider even the poor who were at a distance from him. He laboured also to abolish the superstitions of certain persons. For he was informed that the Separatists from the Novatians, on account of the Jewish Passover, had transported the body of Sabbatius from the island of Rhodes, where he had died in exile, and having buried it, were accustomed to pray at his grave. Atticus therefore caused the body to be disinterred at night, and deposited in a private sepulchre; after which those who had formerly paid their adorations at that place, ceased to do so, on finding his tomb had been opened. Moreover he manifested a great deal of taste in the application of names to places. To a port in the mouth of the Euxine sea, anciently called Pharmaceus, he gave the appellation of Therapeia; because he would not have a place where religious assemblies were held, dishonoured by an inauspicious name. Another place in the vicinity of Constantinople he termed Argyropolis, for this reason. Chrysopolis is an ancient port situated at the head of the Bosphorus, and is mentioned by several of the early writers, especially Strabo, Nicolaus Damascenus, and the eloquent Xenophon in the sixth book of his “Expedition of Cyrus;” and again in the first of his “Grecian History” he says concerning it, That Alcibiades having walled it round, established a toll in it, obliging all who sailed out of Pontus to pay tithes there. Atticus seeing the former place to be directly opposite to Chrysopolis, and very delightfully situated, declared the most appropriate name for it was Argyropolis, which was assigned to it from that time. Some persons having said to him that the Novatians ought not to be permitted to hold their assemblies within the cities: “Do you not know,” he replied, “that they were fellow-sufferers with us in the persecution under Constantine and Valens? Besides,” said he, “they have steadfastly adhered to our Creed: for although they separated from the church a long while ago, they have never introduced any innovations concerning the faith.” Being once at Nice on account of the ordination of a bishop, and seeing there Asclepiades bishop of the Novatians, then very aged, he asked him how many years he had borne the episcopal office? When he was answered fifty years: “You are a happy man,” said he, “to have been exercised in so good a work for such a length of time.” To the same Asclepiades he observed: “I commend Novatus; but can by no means approve of the Novatians.” And when Asclepiades expressed his surprise at this strange remark, Atticus gave him this reason for the distinction. “Novatus has my approbation for refusing to communicate with those who had sacrificed, for I myself would have done the same: but I cannot praise the Novatians, inasmuch as they exclude laymen from communion for very trivial offences.” Asclepiades answered, “There are many other sins unto death as the Scriptures term them, besides sacrificing to idols; on account of which even you excommunicate ecclesiastics, but we laymen also, reserving to God alone the power of pardoning them.” Atticus had moreover a presentiment of his own death; for at his departure from Nice, he said to Calliopius a presbyter of that place: “Hasten to Constantinople before autumn if you wish to see me again alive; for if you delay beyond that time, you will not find me surviving.” Nor did he err in this prediction; for he died on the 10th of October, in the 21st year of his episcopate, under the eleventh consulate of Theodosius, and the first of Valentinian Cæsar. The emperor Theodosius indeed was not at his funeral, being then on his way from Thessalonica, and did not reach Constantinople until the day after Atticus was interred. On the 23rd of the same month, Valentinian junior was proclaimed Augustus.








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