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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

AT Asntioch in Syria another heresiarch sprang up, Aëtius surnamed Atheus. He agreed in doctrine with Arius, and maintained the same opinions: but separated himself from the Arian party, because they had admitted Arius into communion. For Arius, as we have before related, entertaining one opinion in his heart, professed another with his lips; having both hypocritically assented to and subscribed the form of faith set forth at the council of Nice, in order to deceive the reigning emperor. On this account therefore Aëtius separated himself from the Arians, although he had previously been a heretic, and a zealous advocate of Arian views. After receiving some very scanty instruction at Alexandria, on his return from thence, and arrival at Antioch in Syria, which was his native place, he was ordained deacon by Leontius, who was then bishop of that city. Upon this he began to astonish his auditors by the singularity of his discourses, which were constructed in dependence on the precepts of Aristotle’s Categories, a book the scope of which he neither himself perceived, nor had been enlightened on by intercourse with learned persons: so that he was little aware that he was framing fallacious arguments to perplex and deceive himself. For Aristotle had composed this work to exercise the ingenuity of his young disciples, and to confound by subtile arguments the sophists who affected to deride philosophy. Wherefore the Ephectic academicians who expound the writings of Plato and Photius, censure the vain subtilty which Aristotle has displayed in that book: but Aëtius who never had the advantage of an academical preceptor, adhered to the sophisms of the Categories. For this reason he was unable to comprehend how there could be generation without a beginning, and how that which was begotten can be co-eternal with him who begat. In fact Aëtius was a man of very superficial attainments, very little acquainted with the sacred Scriptures, and extremely fond of cavilling, a thing which any clown might do. Nor had he ever carefully studied those ancient writers who have interpreted the Christian oracles; wholly rejecting Clemens, Africanus, and Origen, men eminent for their information in every department of literature and science. But he composed epistles both to the emperor Constantius, and to some other persons, wherein he interwove tedious disputes for the purpose of displaying his sophisms. He has therefore been surnamed Athens. But although his doctrinal statements were similar to those of the Arians, yet from the abstruse nature of his syllogisms, which they were unable to comprehend, they pronounced him a heretic. Being for that reason expelled from their church, he pretended to have separated himself from their communion. Even in the present day there are to be found some who from him were formerly named Aëtians, but now Eunomians. For Eunomius, who had been his secretary, having been instructed by his master in this heretical mode of reasoning, afterwards became the head of that sect. But of Eunomius we shall speak more fully in the proper place.








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