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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

THE emperor on being apprised of what had taken place, sent these three bishops into exile; and determined to convene a general council, that by drawing all the Eastern bishops into the West, he might if possible bring them all to unity of judgment. But when, on consideration, the length of the journey seemed to present serious obstacles, he directed that the Synod should consist of two divisions; permitting those present at Milan to meet at Rimini in Italy: but the Eastern bishops were instructed by his letters to assemble at Nicomedia in Bithynia. The emperor’s object in these arrangements was to effect a general coincidence of opinion; but the issue was contrary to his expectation. For neither of the Synods was in harmony with itself, but each was divided into opposing factions: those convened at Rimini could not agree with one another; and the Eastern bishops assembled at Seleucia in Isauria made another schism. The details of what took place in both will be given in the course of our history, but we shall first make a few observations on Eudoxius. About that time Leontius died, who had ordained the heretic Aëtius deacon: and Eudoxius bishop of Germanicia in Syria, who was then at Rome, thinking no time was to be lost, speciously represented to the emperor that the city over which he presided was in need of his counsel and care, and requested permission to return there immediately. This the emperor readily acceded to, having no suspicion of a clandestine purpose: and he having obtained some of the principal officers of the emperor’s bed chamber to assist him, deserted his own diocese, and fraudulently installed himself in the see of Antioch. His first act there was an attempt to restore Aëtius to his office of deacon, of which he had been divested; and he accordingly convened a council of bishops for that purpose. But his wishes in this respect were baffled, for the odium with which Aëtius was regarded, was more prevalent than the exertions of Eudoxius in his favour. When the bishops were assembled at Rimini, those from the East declared that they were willing to forego all reference to the case of Athanasius: a resolution that was zealously supported by Ursacius and Valens, who had formerly maintained the tenets of Arius; but their disposition being always to identify themselves with the strongest side, they had afterwards presented a recantation of their opinion to the bishop of Rome, and publicly avowed their assent to the doctrine of consubstantiality. Germinius, Auxentius, Demophilus and Gaïus made the same declaration in reference to Athanasius. When therefore some endeavoured to propose one thing in the convocation of bishops, and some another, Ursacius and Valens said that all former draughts of the creed ought to be considered as set aside, and the last alone, which had been prepared at their late convention at Sirmium, regarded as authorized. They then caused to be read a schedule which they held in their hands, containing another form of the creed: this had indeed been drawn up at Sirmium, but had been kept concealed, as we have before observed, until their present publication of it at Rimini. Its contents, translated from the Latin into Greek, were these.

“The catholic faith was expounded at Sirmium in presence of our lord Constantius, in the consulate of the most illustrious Flavius Eusebius, and Hypatius, on the twenty-third May.

“We believe in one only and true God, the Father Almighty, the Creator and Framer of all things: and in one only-begotten Son of God, begotten without passion, before all ages, before all beginning, before all conceivable time, and before all comprehensible thought: by whom the ages were framed, and all things made: who was begotten the only-begotten of the Father, only of only, God of God, like to the Father who begat him, according to the Scriptures: whose generation no one knows, but the Father only who begat him. We know that this his only-begotten Son came down from the heavens by his Father’s appointment for the putting away of sin, was born of the Virgin Mary, conversed with his disciples, and fulfilled every dispensation according to the Father’s will: was crucified and died, and descended into the lower parts of the earth, and disposed matters there; at the sight of whom the door-keepers of Hades trembled: having arisen on the third day, he again conversed with his disciples, and after forty days were completed he ascended into the heavens, and is seated at the Father’s right hand; and at the last day he will come in his Father’s glory, to render to every one according to his works. We believe also in the Holy Spirit, whom the only-begotten Son of God Jesus Christ himself promised to send to the human race as the Comforter, according to that which is written: ‘I go away to my Father, and will ask him, and he will send you another Comforter, the Spirit of truth. He shall receive of mine, and shall teach you, and bring all things to your remembrance.’ As for the term substance, which was used by our fathers for the sake of greater simplicity, but not being understood by the people has caused offence on account of its not being contained in the Scriptures; it seemed desirable that it should be wholly abolished, and that in future no mention should be made of substance in reference to God, since the divine Scriptures have nowhere spoken concerning the substance of the Father and the Son. But we say that the Son is in all things like the Father, as the Holy Scriptures affirm and teach.”

These statements having been read, those who were dissatisfied with them rose and said: “We came not hither because we were in want of a creed; for we preserve inviolate that which we received from the beginning: but we are here met to repress any innovation upon it which may have been made. If therefore what has been recited introduces no novelties, now openly anathematize the Arian heresy, in the same manner as the ancient canon of the church has rejected all heresies as blasphemous: for it is evident to the whole world that the impious dogma of Arius has excited the disturbances of the church, and the troubles which exist until now.” This proposition not being acceded to by Ursacius, Valens, Germinius, Auxentius, Demophilus, and Gaïus, the church was rent asunder by a complete division: for these prelates adhered to what had then been recited in the Synod of Rimini; while the others again confirmed the Nicene Creed. The inscription at the head of the creed that had been read was greatly derided, and especially by Athanasius in a letter which he sent to his friends, wherein he thus expresses himself.

“What point of doctrine was wanting to the piety of the catholic church, that they should now make an investigation respecting the faith, and prefix moreover the consulate of the present times to their published exposition of it? For Ursacius, Valens, and Germinius have done what was neither done, nor even heard of at any time before among Christians: having composed a creed such as they themselves are willing to believe, they preface it with the consulate, month, and day of the present time, in order to prove to all discerning persons that theirs is not the ancient faith, but such as was originated under the reign of the present emperor Constantius. Moreover they have written all things with a view to their own heresy: and besides this, affecting to write respecting the Lord, they name another Lord as theirs, even Constantius, who has countenanced their impiety, so that those who deny the Son to be eternal, have styled him eternal emperor. Thus are they proved to be the enemies of Christ by their profanity. But perhaps the holy prophets’ record of time afforded them a precedent for noticing the consulate! Now should they presume to make this pretext, they would most glaringly expose their own ignorance. The prophecies of these holy men do indeed mark the times. Isaiah and Hosea lived in the days of Uzziah, Joatham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Isai. 1:2; Hos. 1:1); Jeremiah in the time of Josiah (Jer. 1:2); Ezekiel and Daniel in the reign of Cyrus and Darius; and others uttered their predictions in other times: but they did not then lay the foundations of religion. That was in existence before them, and always was, even before the creation of the world, God having prepared it for us in Christ. Nor did they designate the commencement of their own faith; for they were themselves men of faith previously: but they signify the times of the promises given through them. Now the promises primarily referred to our Saviour’s advent; and all that was foretold respecting the course of future events in relation to Israel and the Gentiles was merely collateral and subordinate. Hence the periods mentioned, indicated not the beginning of their faith, as I before observed, but the times in which these prophets lived and foretold such things. But these sages of our day, who neither compile histories, nor predict future events, after writing The Catholic Faith was published, immediately add the Consulate, with the month and the day: and as the holy prophets wrote the date of their records and of their own ministration, so these men intimate the era of their own faith. And would that they had written concerning their own faith only, since they have now begun to believe, and had not undertaken to write respecting the Catholic faith. For they have not written Thus we believe; but The Catholic Faith was published. The temerity of purpose herein manifested argues their impiety; while the novelty of expression found in the document they have concocted assimilates it with the Arian heresy. By writing in this manner, they have declared when they themselves began to believe, and from what time they wish it to be understood their faith was first preached. And just as when the evangelist Luke says, ‘A decree of enrolment was published,’ he speaks of an edict which was not in existence before, but came into operation at that time, and was published by him who had written it; so these men by writing The faith has now been published, have declared that the tenets of their heresy are of modern invention, and did not exist in former times. But since they apply the term Catholic to it, they seem to have unconsciously fallen into the extravagant assumption of the Cataphrygians, asserting even as they did, that the Christian faith was first revealed to us, and commenced with us. And as those termed Maximilla and Montanus, so these style Constantius their Lord, instead of Christ. But if according to them, the faith had its beginning from the present consulate, what will the fathers, and the blessed martyrs do? Moreover what will they themselves do with those who were instructed in religious principles by them, and died before this consulate? By what means will they recall them to life, in order to obliterate from their minds what they seemed to have taught them, and to implant in its stead those new discoveries of theirs? So stupid are they as to be only capable of framing pretences, and these such as are presumptuous and unreasonable, and carry with them their own refutation.”

Athanasius wrote thus to his friends: and the learned who may read through his whole epistle will perceive how powerfully he treats the subject; but for brevity’s sake we have here inserted a part only. Valens, Ursacius, Auxentius, Germinius, Gaïus, and Demophilus, were deposed by the Synod, for refusing to anathematize the Arian doctrine; who being very indignant at their deposition, hastened directly to the emperor, carrying with them the exposition of faith which had been read in the Synod. The council also acquainted the emperor with their determinations in a communication which translated from the Latin into Greek, was to the following effect.


“We believe that it was by the appointment of God, as well as at the command of your piety, that we Western bishops came out of various districts to Rimini, in order that the faith of the catholic church might be made manifest to all, and that heretics might be detected. For on a considerate review by us of all points, our decision has been to adhere to the ancient faith which we have received from the prophets, the gospels, the apostles, from God himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the guardian of your empire, and the protector of your person, which faith also we have always maintained. We conceived that it would be unwarrantable and impious to mutilate any of those things which have been justly and solemnly ratified, by those who sat in the Nicene council with Constantine of glorious memory, the father of your piety. What was then determined has been made public, and infused into the minds of the people; and it is found to be so powerfully opposed to the Arian heresy which then sprang up, as not to subdue it only, but also all others. Should therefore any thing be taken away from what was at that time established, a passage would be opened to the poisonous doctrine of heretics.

“These matters having been strictly investigated and the creed drawn up in the presence of Constantine, who after being baptized, departed to God’s rest in the faith of it; we regard as an abomination any infringement thereon, or any attempt to invalidate the authority of so many saints, confessors, and successors of the martyrs, who assisted at that council, and themselves preserved inviolate all the determinations of the ancient writers of the catholic church: whose faith has remained unto these times in which your piety has received from God the Father, through Jesus Christ our God and Lord, the power of ruling the world.

“Ursacius and Valens being heretofore suspected of entertaining Arian sentiments, were suspended from communion: but on making an apology, as their written recantation attests, they obtained pardon from the council of Milan, at which the legates of the Church of Rome were present. Yet have these infatuated beings, endued with an unhappy disposition, again had the temerity to declare themselves the propagators of false doctrine; and even now they endeavour to shake what has been in great wisdom established. For when the letters of your piety had ordered us to assemble for the examination of the faith, these troublers of the churches, supported by Germinius, Auxentius, and Gaïus, presented for consideration a new creed, containing much unsound doctrine. But when the exposition they thus publicly brought forward in the council met with general disapprobation, they thought it should be otherwise expressed: and indeed it is notorious that they have often changed their sentiments within a short time. Lest therefore the churches should be more frequently disturbed, it was decreed that the ancient sanctions should be ratified and maintained inviolable; and moreover that the aforesaid persons should be excommunicated. We have accordingly directed our legates to inform your clemency of these things, and to present our letter in which the decisions of the council are announced. To them also this special charge has been given, that they should not otherwise execute their commission, than that the ancient ordinances should continue firmly established: and also to assure your wisdom that peace could not be secured by some slight alteration, such as Valens, Ursacius, Germinius, and Gaïus subsequently proposed. For how can peace be preserved by those who are ever seeking to subvert it, who have filled all regions, and especially the church of Rome with confusion? Wherefore we beseech your clemency to propitiously regard, and favourably listen to our deputies: and not to permit anything to be reversed to the prejudice of the ancient faith, but to cause that those truths may remain unimpaired which we have received from our ancestors, whom we know to have been prudent men, and who did not act otherwise than in subjection to the Holy Spirit of God. Because not only are the believing people distracted by these novel doctrines, but infidels also are turned aside from embracing the faith. We farther entreat you to order that the bishops who are detained at Rimini, among whom are many that are wasted by age and poverty, may return to their several provinces; lest the members of their churches should suffer from the absence of their bishops. But we pray still more earnestly that no innovation may be made on the faith, and nothing abstracted; but that those principles may continue unvitiated which were recognized in the times of the father of your sacred piety, and have been transmitted to your own religious age. Let not your holy prudence suffer us in future to be exhausted by fatigue, and torn from our sees: but permit the bishops to dwell with their people free from contentions, that they may uninterruptedly offer up supplications for the safety of your person, for the prosperity of your reign, and for peace, which may the Deity grant, according to your merits, to be profound and perpetual. Our legates will present your sacred and religious prudence another document, containing the names and signatures of all the bishops or their deputies.”

The Synod having thus written, sent their communications to the emperor by the bishops selected for that purpose. But Ursacius and Valens having arrived before them, did their utmost to calumniate the council, exhibiting the exposition of the faith which they had brought with them: and as the mind of this prince had long been infected with Arian sentiments, he became extremely exasperated against the Synod, but conferred great honour on Valens and Ursacius. Those deputed by the council were consequently detained a considerable time, without being able to obtain an answer: at length however the emperor replied through those who had come to him, in the manner following:—

“Constantius Victor and Triumphator Augustus to all the bishops convened at Rimini.

“That our especial care is ever exercised respecting the divine and venerated law even your sanctity is not ignorant. Nevertheless we have hitherto been unable to give an audience to the twenty bishops who undertook the part of a deputation from you, inasmuch as preparations for an expedition against the barbarians have wholly engrossed our attention. And since, as you will admit, matters relative to the divine law ought to be entered on with a mind free from all anxiety, I have therefore ordered these prelates to await our return to Adrianople; that when public business shall have been duly attended to, we may then give our consideration to what they shall propose. In the interim let it not seem troublesome to your gravity to wait for their return; since when they shall convey to you our resolution, you will be prepared to carry into effect such measures as may be most advantageous to the welfare of the catholic church.”

The bishops on the receipt of this letter wrote thus in reply:—

“We have received your clemency’s letter, sovereign lord most beloved of God, in which you inform us that the exigences of state affairs have hitherto prevented your admitting our legates to your presence: and you bid us await their return, until your piety shall have learnt from them what has been determined on by us in conformity with the tradition of our ancestors. But we again protest by this letter that we can by no means depart from our primary resolution; and this also we have commissioned our deputies to state. We beseech you therefore, both with unruffled countenance to order this present epistle of our modesty to be read; and also to listen benignantly to the representations with which our legates have been charged. Your mildness doubtless perceives, as well as we, to how great an extent grief and sadness prevail, because of so many churches being bereft of their bishops in these most blessed times of yours. Again therefore we entreat your clemency, sovereign lord most dear to God, to command us to return to our churches, if it please your piety, before the rigour of winter; in order that we may be enabled, in conjunction with the people, to offer up our solemn prayers to Almighty God, and to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, for the prosperity of your reign, as we have always done, and now desire to do.”

The bishops having waited together some time after this letter had been despatched, without the emperor’s deigning to reply, departed to their respective cities. Now it had long before been the emperor’s intention to disseminate Arian doctrine throughout the churches; which he then being anxious to accomplish so as to give it pre-eminence, pretended their departure was an act of contumely, declaring they had treated him with contempt by dissolving the council in opposition to his wishes. He therefore gave the partisans of Ursacius unbounded licence of acting as they pleased in regard to the churches: and directed that the form of creed which had been read at Rimini, should be sent to the churches throughout Italy; ordering that whoever would not subscribe it should be ejected from their sees, and others substituted in their place. Liberius bishop of Rome, having refused his assent to that creed, was the first who was sent into exile; the adherents of Ursacius appointing Felix to succeed him, who had been a deacon in that church, but on embracing the Arian heresy was elevated to the episcopate. Some however assert that he was not favourable to that opinion, but was constrained by force to receive the ordination of bishop. After this all parts of the West were filled with agitation and tumult, some being ejected and banished, and others established in their stead; these things being effected by violence, on the authority of the imperial edicts, which were also sent into the eastern parts. Not long after indeed Liberius was recalled, and reinstated in his see; for the people of Rome having raised a sedition, and expelled Felix from their church, Constantius deemed it inexpedient to further provoke the popular fury. The Ursacian faction quitting Italy, passed through the eastern parts; and arriving at Nice a city of Thrace, they there held another Synod, where after translating the form of faith which was read at Rimini into Greek, they confirmed and published it afresh, as the one that had been dictated at the general council. In this way they attempted to deceive the more simple by the similarity of names, and to impose upon them as the creed promulgated at Nice in Bithynia, that which they had prepared at Nice in Thrace. But this artifice was of little advantage to them; for being soon detected, it exposed them to the contempt and derision of all men. With this we close our account of the transactions which took place in the West: we shall now proceed to state what was done in the East.

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