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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

ALTHOUGH, as we have shown, religion was in a flourishing condition at this period, yet the Church was disturbed by sore contentions; for under the pretext of piety and of seeking the more perfect knowledge of God, certain questions were agitated, which had not, till then, been examined. Arius was the originator of these disputations. He was an elder of the Church at Alexandria in Egypt, and was at first a zealous supporter of truth, yet upholding at the same time the innovations of Melitius. Eventually, however, he abandoned these opinions, and was ordained deacon by Peter, bishop of Alexandria, who afterwards cast him out of the Church, because he reprehended the conduct of this prelate in preaching against the Meletians, and in rejecting their baptism. After the martyrdom of Peter, Arius asked forgiveness of Achillas, and was restored to his office as deacon, and afterwards elevated to the presbytery. Alexander, also, held him in high repute. He was a most expert logician, but perverted his talents to evil purposes, and had the audacity to preach what no one before him had ever suggested, namely, that the Son of God was made out of that which had no prior existence, that there was a period of time in which He existed not, that, as possessing free will, He was capable of virtue or of vice, and that He was created and made; to these, many other similar assertions were added in support of the argument. Those who heard these doctrines advanced, blamed Alexander for not opposing opinions which seemed at variance with the faith. But this bishop deemed it more advisable to leave each party to the free discussion of doubtful topics, so that by persuasion, rather than by force, unanimity might be restored; hence he assembled some of his clergy around him, and sat down, as judge, to hear the statements of the contending parties. But it happened on this occasion, as is generally the case in a strife of words, that each party claimed the victory. Arius defended the assertions he had advanced against the Son, but the others contended that he was con-substantial and coeternal with the Father. The council was convened a second time, and the same points contested, but they came to no agreement amongst themselves. During the debate, Alexander seemed to incline first to one party and then to the other; finally, however, he declared himself in favour of those who affirmed that the Son was con-substantial and co-eternal with the Father, and he commanded Arius to receive this doctrine, and to reject his former opinions. Arius, however, would not be persuaded to compliance, and many of the bishops and clergy considered his statement of doctrine to be correct; Alexander, therefore, ejected him, and the clergy who concurred with him in sentiment, from the Church. Those of Alexandria who had embraced his opinions were the presbyters Aithalas, Achillas, Carpon, Sarmates, and Arius, and the deacons Euzoins, Macarius, Julius, Minas and Helladius. Many of the people, likewise, sided with them; some, because they imagined their doctrines to be of God, others, as frequently happens in similar cases, because they believed them to have been ill-treated and unjustly excommunicated. Such being the state of affairs at Alexandria, the partizans of Arius deemed it prudent to seek the favour of the bishops of other cities; accordingly, they sent a written statement of their doctrines to them, requesting them that, if they considered such sentiments to be of God, they would signify to Alexander that he ought not to molest them; but that, if they disapproved of the doctrines, they would do well to declare what opinions were necessary to be held on the points in question. This precaution was of no little advantage to Arius and his partizans, for their tenets became thus universally disseminated, and the questions they had started became matters of debate among all the bishops. Some wrote to Alexander, entreating him not to receive the partizans of Arius into communion unless they repudiated their opinions, while others wrote to urge a contrary line of conduct. When Alexander perceived that many who were eminent for their virtues, their piety, or their eloquence, held with the party of Arius, and particularly Eusebius bishop of Nicomedia, a man of considerable learning, and held in high repute at the palace, he wrote to the bishops of every church, desiring them not to hold communion with them. This measure only served to increase the violence of the controversy, and, as might have been expected, the contest was carried on more acrimoniously than before. Eusebius and his partizans had often, though without success, entreated Alexander to continue in communion with them; and they considered themselves so much aggrieved by this measure, that they came to a stronger determination than before to support the doctrines of Arius. A synod having been convened in Bithynia, they wrote to all the bishops, desiring them to hold communion with the Arians, as with those making a true confession, and to require Alexander to hold communion with them likewise. As compliance could not be extorted from Alexander, Arius sent messengers to Paulinus bishop of Tyre, to Eusebius Pamphilus, who presided over the Church of Cæsarea in Palestine, and to Patrophilus bishop of Scythopolis, soliciting permission for himself and for his adherents, as he had already attained the rank of presbyter, to form the people who were with them into a Church. For it was the custom in Alexandria, as it still is in the present day, that all the churches should be under one bishop, but that each presbyter should have his own church, in which to assemble the people. These three bishops, in concurrence with others who were assembled in Palestine, granted the petition of Arius, and permitted him to assemble the people as before; but enjoined submission to Alexander, and commanded Arius to strive incessantly to be restored to peace and communion with him.








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