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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

ABOUT this period, Apollinarius openly devised a heresy, to which his name has since been given. He induced many persons to secede from the church, and formed separate assemblies. Vitalius, a presbyter of Antioch, and one of the clergy of Meletius, concurred with him in the promulgation of his peculiar opinions. In other respects, Vitalius was blameless in life and conduct, and was zealous in watching over those committed to his pastoral superintendence; hence he was greatly revered by the people. He seceded from communion with Meletius and joined Apollinarius, and presided over those at Antioch who had embraced the same opinions; by the sanctity of his life he attracted a great number of followers, who are still called Vitalians by the citizens of Antioch. It is said he was led to secede from the church from resentment at the contempt that was manifested towards him by Flavian, then one of his fellow presbyters, but who was afterwards raised to the bishopric of Antioch. Flavian having prevented him from holding his customary interview with the bishop, he fancied himself despised, and entered into communion with Apollinarius, with whom he contracted a strict friendship. From that period, the members of this sect have held separate assemblies in various cities under the guidance of their own bishops, and have established laws and regulations contrary to those of the Catholic Church. They sang the psalms composed by Apollinarius; for, besides his great attainments in other branches of literature, he was a poet, and by the beauty of his verses he induced many to adopt his sentiments. He composed verses to be sung by men at convivial meetings and at their daily labour, and by women while engaged at the loom. But whether his songs were adapted for holidays, festivals, or other occasions, they were all alike to the praise and glory of God. Damasis, bishop of Rome, and Peter, bishop of Alexandria, were the first to receive information of the rise and progress of this heresy, and they condemned it at a council held at Rome, as contrary to the doctrines of the Catholic Church. It is said that it was as much from weakness of mind as from any other cause that Apollinarius deviated from the authorized form of doctrine. For it appears that when Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, was on his road back to Egypt from the place whither he had been banished by Constantine, he had to pass through Laodicea, and that while in that city he formed an intimacy with Apollinarius, which terminated in the strictest friendship. As, however, the heterodox considered it disgraceful to hold communion with Athanasius, George, the bishop of the Arians in that city, ejected Apollinarius in a very insulting manner, from the church, under the plea that he had received Athanasius contrary to the canons and holy laws. The bishop did not rest here, but reproached him with crimes which he had committed and repented of at a remote period. For, when Theodotus, the predecessor of George, governed the church of Laodicea, Epiphanius, the sophist, recited a hymn which he had composed in honour of Bacchus. Apollinarius, who was then a youth, and the pupil of Epiphanius, went to hear the recitation, accompanied by his father, whose name also was Apollinarius, and who was a noted grammarian. After the exordium, Epiphanius, according to the custom always observed at the public recitation of hymns, directed the uninitiated and the profane to quit the assembly. But neither Apollinarius the younger nor the elder, nor, indeed, any of the Christians who were present, left the spot. When Theodotus heard that they had been present during the recitation, he was exceedingly displeased; he, however, pardoned the laymen who had committed this error, after they had received a moderate reproof. With respect to Apollinarius, father and son, he convicted them both publicly of their crime, and ejected them from the church; for they had belonged to the order of clergy, the father being a presbyter, and the son a reader of the Holy Scriptures. After some time had elapsed, and when the father and son had evinced by tears and fasting a degree of repentance adequate to their transgression, Theodotus restored them to their offices in the church. When George succeeded to the bishopric, he excommunicated Apollinarius on account of his having, as before stated, received Athanasius into communion. It is said that Apollinarius besought him repeatedly to restore him to communion, but that as he was inexorable, Apollinarius determined from resentment to introduce trouble and dissension in the church by broaching the aforesaid heresy; and that he thought by means of his eloquence to revenge himself on his enemy by proving that George had deposed one who was more deeply acquainted with the Sacred Scriptures than himself. Thus do the private animosities of the clergy tend to the injury of the church, and the introduction of many heresies in religion! Had George, like Theodotus, received Apollinarius on his repentance into communion, I believe that we should never have heard of the heresy that bears his name. Men are prone, when loaded with, opprobrium and contempt, to resort to extreme and contentious measures; whereas, when treated with justice, they moderate their natural impetuosity, and remain within bounds.








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