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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

ALTHOUGH what I have recorded did not occur at the same period of time after the death of Constans to Athanasius and the church of Alexandria, yet I deemed it right, for the sake of greater clearness, to relate all these events in consecutive order. The Council of Milan was dissolved without any business having been transacted, and the emperor condemned to banishment all those who had opposed the designs of the enemies of Athanasius. As Constantius wished to establish uniformity of doctrine throughout the church, and to unite the priesthood in the maintenance of the same sentiments, he formed a plan to convene the bishops of every religion to a council, to be held in the West. He was aware of the difficulty of carrying this scheme into execution, arising from the vast extent of land and seas which some of the bishops would have to traverse, yet he did not altogether despair of success. While this project was occupying his mind, and before he prepared to make his triumphal entrance into Rome, he sent for Liberius, the bishop of Rome, and strove to persuade him to conformity of sentiment with priests by whom he was attended, and amongst whom was Eudoxius. As Liberius, however, refused compliance, and protested that he would never yield on this point, the emperor banished him to Berœa, in Thrace. It is alleged, that another reason of the banishment of Liberius was, that he would not withdraw from communion with Athanasius, but manfully opposed the emperor, who insisted that Athanasius had injured the church, had occasioned the death of his elder brother, and had sown the seeds of enmity between Constans and himself. As the emperor revived all the decrees which had been enacted against Athanasius by various councils, and particularly by that of Tyre, Liberius told him that no regard ought to be paid to edicts which were issued from motives of hatred, of favour, or of fear. He desired that the bishops of every region should be made to sign the formulary of faith compiled at Nicæa, and that those bishops who had been exiled on account of their adherence to it should be recalled. He suggested that all the bishops should, at their own expense, and without being furnished either with money or conveyances by the public, proceed to Alexandria, and endeavour to ascertain the truth by inquiries, which could be more easily instituted at that city than elsewhere, as the injured and those who had inflicted injury dwelt there. He then exhibited the letter written by Valens and Ursacius to Julius, his predecessor in the Roman bishopric, in which they solicited his forgiveness, and acknowledged that the depositions brought against Athanasius, at Mareota, were false; and he besought the emperor not to condemn Athanasius during his absence, nor to give credit to enactments which were evidently obtained by the machinations of his enemies. With respect to the alleged injuries which had been inflicted on his brothers, he entreated the emperor not to revenge himself by the hands of priests who had been set apart by God, not for the execution of vengeance, but for sanctification, and the performance of just and benevolent actions. The emperor, perceiving that Liberius was not disposed to comply with his mandate, commanded that he should be conveyed to Thrace, unless he would change his mind within two days. “To me, O emperor,” replied Liberius, “deliberation is of no avail; my resolution has long been formed, and I am ready to go forth to exile.” It is said, that when he was being conducted to banishment, the emperor sent him five hundred pieces of gold; he, however, refused to receive them, and said to the messenger who brought them, “Go, and tell him who sent this gold, to give it to the flatterers and hypocrites who surround him, for their insatiable cupidity plunges them into a state of perpetual want which can never be relieved. Christ, who is, in all respects, like unto His Father, supplies us with food and with all good things.”

Liberius having, for the above reasons, been deposed from the government of the Roman church, his bishopric was transferred to Felix, a deacon of the same church. It is said that Felix always continued in adherence to the Nicene faith; and that, with respect to his conduct in religious matters, he was blameless. The only thing alleged against him was, that, prior to his ordination, he held communion with the heterodox. When the emperor entered Rome, the people loudly demanded Liberius; after consulting with the bishops who were with him, he replied, that he would recall Liberius and restore him to the people, if he would consent to embrace the same sentiments as those held by the priests of the court.








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