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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

THE clergy of the West having thus anticipated the designs of those who sought to introduce innovations among them, carefully continued to preserve the inviolability of the faith which had from the beginning been handed down to them. With the solitary exception of Auxentius and his partizans, there were no individuals among them who entertained heterodox opinions. Auxentius, however, did not live long after this period. At his death, a sedition arose among the people of Milan concerning the appointment of a successor, and the city seemed in danger of a general insurrection. Those who had aspired to the bishopric, and been defeated in their expectations, were loud in their menaces, as is usual on such occasions. Ambrosius, who was then the governor of the province, being fearful lest further tumult should arise, went to the church and exhorted the people to cease from contention, to re-establish peace and concord, and to respect the laws. Before he had ceased speaking, all his auditors suppressed the angry feelings by which they had been mutually agitated against each other, and declared that he who was exhorting them to concord should be their bishop, and receive the rite of baptism, for he had never been baptised. After Ambrosius had repeatedly refused the proffered dignity, and even quitted the place that it might not be forced upon him, the people still persisted in their choice, and declared that the disputes would never be appeased unless he would accede to their wishes; and at length intelligence of these transactions was conveyed to court. It is said that the Emperor Valentinian prayed and returned thanks to God, that the very man whom he had appointed governor, had been chosen to till a priestly office. When he was informed of the earnest desires of the people and the refusal of Ambrosius, he inferred that events had been so ordered by God for the purpose of restoring peace to the church of Milan, and commanded that Ambrosius should be ordained as quickly as possible. He was baptized and ordained at the same time, and forthwith proceeded to bring the church under his sway to unanimity of opinion concerning the Divine nature; for, while under the guidance of Auxentius, it had been long rent by dissensions on this subject. We shall hereafter have occasion to speak of the conduct of Ambrosius after his ordination, and of the admirable and holy manner in which he discharged the functions of the priesthood.

About this period, the Novatians of Phrygia, contrary to their ancient custom, began to celebrate the festival of the passover (το Πάσχα), on the same day as the Jews. Novatius, the originator of their heresy, refused to receive those who repented of their sins into communion, and it was, in this respect alone, that he innovated upon established doctrines. But he and those who succeeded him celebrated the feast of the passover after the vernal equinox, according to the custom of the Roman church. Some Novatian bishops, however, assembled about this time at Pazi, a town of Phrygia, near the source of the river Sangarus, and agreeing not to follow, in this point of discipline, the practice of those who differed in doctrine from them, established a new regulation for their own observance; they determined upon keeping the feast of unleavened bread, and upon celebrating the passover on the same days as the Jews. Agelius, the bishop of the Novatians at Constantinople, and the bishops of the Novatians at Nicæa, Nicomedia, and Cotua, a noted town of Phrygia, did not take part in this synod, although they acted as chiefs and presidents, so to speak, in all the meetings and transactions of their sect. Dissension was introduced, which led to the formation of two distinct parties in this sect, as I shall presently require to show.








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