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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

ACACIUS and his adherents loudly exclaimed against this act of covertly affixing their signatures when the church doors were closed; declaring that all such secret transactions were justly to be suspected, and had no validity whatever. These objections were prompted by another motive, as he was anxious to bring forward an exposition of the faith drawn up by himself, which he had already submitted to the governors Leonas and Lauricius, and was now intent on getting confirmed and established, instead of that which had been subscribed. The second day was thus occupied with nothing else, but exertions on his part to effect this object. Leonas on the third day, endeavoured to produce an amicable meeting of both parties; Macedonius of Constantinople, and Basil of Ancyra having at length arrived. But when the Acacians found that both these persons had attached themselves to the opposite party, they refused to meet; saying that not only those who had before been deposed, but also such as were at present under any accusation, ought to be excluded from the assembly. After much cavilling on both sides, this opinion prevailed; and accordingly those who lay under any charge went out of the council, and the party of Acacius entered. Leonas then said that a document had been put into his hand by Acacius, to which he desired to call their attention: but he did not state that it was the draught of a creed, which in some particulars covertly, and in others unequivocally contradicted the former. Silence having been made, the bishops anticipating anything rather than what it actually was, the following creed composed by Acacius, together with its preamble, was read.

“We having yesterday assembled by the emperor’s command at Seleucia, a city of Isauria, on the 27th day of September, exerted ourselves to the utmost, with all moderation, to preserve the peace of the church, and to determine doctrinal questions on prophetic and evangelical authority; so as to sanction nothing in the ecclesiastic confession of faith at variance with the sacred Scriptures, as our emperor Constantius most beloved of God has ordered. But inasmuch as certain individuals in the Synod have acted injuriously toward several of us, preventing some from expressing their sentiments, and excluding others from the council against their wills; and at the same time have introduced such as have been deposed, and persons who were ordained contrary to the ecclesiastical canon, so that the Synod has presented a scene of tumult and disorder, of which the most illustrious Leonas the Comes, and the most eminent Lauricius governor of the province have been eye-witnesses, we are therefore under the necessity of making this declaration. Not that we repudiate the faith which was ratified at the consecration of the church at Antioch; for we give it our decided preference, because it received the concurrence of our fathers who were assembled there to consider some controverted points. Since however the terms consubstantial, and of like substance, have in time past troubled the minds of many, and still continue to disquiet them; and moreover that a new term has recently been coined by some who assert the dissimilitude of the Son to the Father: we reject the first two, as expressions which are not found in the Scriptures; but we utterly anathematize the last, and regard such as countenance its use, as alienated from the church. We distinctly acknowledge the likeness of the Son to the Father, in accordance with what the apostle has declared concerning him (Col. 1:15), ‘Who is the image of the invisible God’.

“We confess then, and believe in one God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and of things visible and invisible. We believe also in his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who was begotten of him without passion before all ages, God the Word, the only-begotten of God, the Light, the Life, the Truth, the Wisdom: by whom all things were made which are in the heavens and upon the earth, whether visible or invisible. We believe that he took flesh of the holy Virgin Mary, at the end of the ages, in order to abolish sin; that he was made man, suffered for our sins, rose again, was taken up into the heavens, and sits at the right hand of the Father, whence he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We believe moreover in the Holy Spirit, whom our Lord and Saviour has denominated the Comforter, and whom he sent to his disciples after his departure, according to his promise: by whom also he sanctifies all believers in the church, who are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Those who preach any thing contrary to this creed, we regard as alienated from the catholic church.”

Such was the declaration of faith proposed by Acacius, and subscribed by himself and as many as adhered to his opinion, the number of whom we have already given. When this had been read, Sophronius bishop of Pompeiopolis in Paphlagonia, thus expressed himself:—“If to explain our own private opinion day after day, be received as the exposition of the faith, we shall never arrive at any accurate understanding of the truth.” These were the words of Sophronius. And I firmly believe, that if the predecessors of these prelates, as well as their successors, had entertained similar sentiments in reference to the Nicene creed, all polemical debates would have been avoided, nor would the church have been agitated by such violent and irrational disturbances: nevertheless it is for the prudent to determine for themselves respecting these matters. After many remarks on all sides had been made both in reference to the doctrinal statement which had been recited, and in relation to the parties accused, the assembly was dissolved for that time. On the fourth day they all again met in the same place, and resumed their proceedings in the same contentious spirit as before. On this occasion Acacius expressed himself in these terms:—“Since the Nicene creed has been altered not once only, but frequently, there is no hindrance to our publishing another at this time.” To which Eleusius bishop of Cyzicum replied—“The Synod is at present convened not to learn what it had a previous knowledge of, nor to receive a creed which it had not assented to before, but to confirm the faith of the fathers, from which it should never recede, either in life or death.” Eleusius in thus opposing Acacius, meant by the faith of the fathers, that creed which had been promulgated at Antioch. But surely he too might have been fairly answered in this way:—“How is it, O Eleusius, that you call those convened at Antioch the fathers, seeing that you do not recognize those who were their fathers? The framers of the Nicene creed, by whom the Homoousian faith was acknowledged, have a far higher claim to the title of the fathers; both as having the priority in point of time, and also because those assembled at Antioch were by them invested with the sacerdotal office. Now if those at Antioch have disowned their own fathers, those who follow them are unconsciously following parricides. Besides how can they have received a legitimate ordination from those whose faith they pronounce unsound and impious? If those who constituted the Nicene Synod had not the Holy Spirit which is imparted by the imposition of hands, those at Antioch have not duly received the priesthood: for how could they have received it from those who had not the power of conferring it?” Such considerations as these might have been submitted to Eleusius in reply to his objections. They then proceeded to another question, connected with the assertion made by Acacius in his exposition of the faith, “that the Son was like the Father;” enquiring of one another in what this resemblance consisted. The Acacian party affirmed that the Son was like the Father as it respected his Will only, and not his substance or essence; but the rest maintained that the likeness extended to both essence and will. In altercations on this point, the whole day was consumed; and Acacius, being confuted by his own published works, in which he had asserted that “the Son is in all things like the Father,” his opponents asked him how he could consistently deny the likeness of the Son to the Father as to his essence? Acacius in reply said, that no author, ancient or modern, was ever condemned out of his own writings. After pursuing their debate on this matter to a most tedious extent, with much acrimonious feeling and subtilty of argument, but without any approach to unity of judgment, Leonas arose and dissolved the council. Indeed this was properly the conclusion of the Synod at Seleucia: for Leonas on the following day was inflexible to their entreaties that he would again be present in their assembly. “I have been deputed by the emperor,” said he, “to preside in a council where unanimity was expected to prevail: but since you can by no means come to a mutual understanding, I can no longer be present: go therefore to the church, if you please, and indulge in this vain babbling there.” The Acacian faction conceiving this decision to be advantageous to themselves, refused also to assemble with the others; although the adverse party had sent to request their attendance in the church, that cognizance might be taken of the case of Cyril bishop of Jerusalem: for that prelate had been accused long before, on what grounds however I am unable to state. He had even been deposed, because he had not made his appearance during two whole years, after having been repeatedly summoned in order that the charges against him might be investigated. Nevertheless when he was deposed, he sent a written notification to those who had condemned him, that he should appeal to a higher jurisdiction: and this course of his received the sanction of the emperor Constantius. Cyril was thus the first and indeed only clergyman who ventured to break through ecclesiastical usage, by becoming an appellant, in the way commonly done in the secular courts of judicature. Being now present at Seleucia, ready to be put upon his trial, the other bishops invited the Acacian party to take their places in the assembly, that in a general council a definite judgment might be pronounced on the case of those who were arraigned: for others also charged with various misdemeanours had been cited to appear before them at the same time, who to protect themselves had sought refuge among the partisans of Acacius. When therefore that faction persisted in their refusal to meet, after being repeatedly summoned, the bishops deposed Acacius himself, together with George of Alexandria, Uranius of Tyre, Theodulus of Chæretapi in Phrygia, Theodosius of Philadelphia in Lydia, Evagrius of the island of Mytilene, Leontius of Tripolis in Lydia, and Eudoxius who had formerly been bishop of Germanicia, but had afterwards insinuated himself into the bishopric of Antioch in Syria. They also deposed Patrophilus for contumacy, in not having presented himself to answer a charge preferred against him by a presbyter named Dorotheus. Besides deposing those above mentioned, they excommunicated Asterius, Eusebius, Abgarus, Basilicus, Phœbus, Fidelis, Eutychius, Magnus, and Eustathius; determining that they should not be restored to communion, until they made such a defence as would clear them from the imputations under which they lay. This being done, they address explanatory letters to each of the churches whose bishops had been deposed. Anianus was then constituted bishop of Antioch instead of Eudoxius: but the Acacians having soon after apprehended him, he was delivered into the hands of Leonas and Lauricius, by whom he was sent into exile. The bishops who had ordained him being incensed on this account, lodged a protest against the Acacian party with Leonas and Lauricius, in which they openly charged them with having violated the decisions of the Synod. Finding that no redress could be obtained by this means, they went to Constantinople to lay the whole matter before the emperor.

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