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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

AFTER the death of the emperor Constantine, Eusebius bishop of Nicomedia, and Theognis of Nice, imagining that a favourable opportunity had arisen, used their utmost efforts to abolish the doctrine of Consubstantiality, and to introduce Arianism. They nevertheless despaired of effecting this, if Athanasius should return to Alexandria: in order therefore to accomplish their designs, they sought the assistance of that presbyter by whose means Arius had been recalled from exile a little before. Their plan of operation shall now be described. The presbyter in question having been entrusted with Constantine’s Will at that emperor’s death, presented it to his son Constantius; who finding those dispositions in it which he was most desirous of, for the empire of the East was by his father’s Will apportioned to him, treated the presbyter with great consideration, loaded him with favours, and ordered that free access should be given him both to the palace and to himself. This licence soon obtained for him familiar intercourse with the empress, as well as with her eunuchs. The chief eunuch of the imperial bedchamber at that time was named Eusebius, who, under the influence of the presbyter, was induced to embrace the Arian doctrine; after which the rest of the eunuchs were also prevailed on to adopt the same sentiments. Through the combined persuasives of these eunuchs and the presbyter, the empress became favourable to the tenets of Arius; and not long after the subject was introduced to the emperor himself. Thus it became gradually diffused throughout the court, and among the officers of the imperial household and guards, until at length it spread itself over the whole population of the city. The chamberlains in the palace discussed this doctrine with the women; and in the family of every citizen there was a logical war. Moreover the mischief quickly extended to other provinces and cities, the controversy, like a spark, insignificant at first, exciting in the auditors a spirit of contention: for every one who enquired the cause of the tumult, found an immediate occasion for disputing, and determined to take part in the strife at the moment of making the inquiry. By general altercation of this kind all order was subverted: the agitation however was confined to the cities of the East, those of Illyricum and the western parts of the empire meanwhile being perfectly tranquil, because they would not annul the decisions of the council of Nice. As this disorderly state of things continued to increase, Eusebius of Nicomedia and his party calculated on profiting by the popular ferment, so as to be enabled to constitute some one who held their own sentiments bishop of Alexandria. But the return of Athanasius at that time defeated their purpose, for he came thither fortified by a letter from one of the Augusti, which the younger Constantine, who bore his father’s name, addressed to the people of Alexandria, from Treves a city in Gaul. A copy of this epistle is here subjoined.








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