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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

WHEN it was found that the event did not answer the expectations of the emperor, but that, on the contrary, the breach was widened, so that he who had been sent to make peace, returned without having accomplished his mission, Constantine convened a synod at Nicæa, in Bithynia, and wrote to the most eminent men of the churches in every country, directing them to be there on an appointed day. Of those who occupied the apostolic thrones, the following were assembled at this council:—Macarius, of Jerusalem; Eustathius, who presided over the church of Antioch on the Orontes; and Alexander, of Alexandria on Lake Mareotis. Julius, Bishop of Rome, was unable to attend on account of extreme old age; but his place was supplied by Vito and Vicentius, presbyters of his church. Many other pious and excellent men of the neighbouring provinces were congregated together, of whom some were celebrated for their learning, their eloquence, and their knowledge of literature, sacred and profane; some for the virtuous tenor of their life, and others for the combination of all these qualifications. About three hundred and twenty bishops were present, accompanied by a multitude of presbyters and deacons. There were, likewise, men present who were skilled in the art of disputation, and ready to assist in the discussions. And, as was usually the case on such occasions, many priests resorted to the council for the purpose of transacting their own private affairs; for they considered this a favourable opportunity of effecting such alterations as they deemed desirable, and of presenting petitions to the emperor containing complaints against those by whom they considered themselves aggrieved. As this course was pursued day after day, the emperor set apart one certain day on which all complaints were to be brought before him. When the appointed day arrived, he took the memorials which had been presented to him, and said, “All these accusations will be brought forward at the great day of judgment, and will be judged by the Great Judge of all men; as to me, I am but a man, and it would be evil in me to take cognizance of such matters, seeing that the accuser and the accused are priests; and priests ought so to act as never to become amenable to the judgment of others. Imitate, therefore, the divine love and mercy of God, and be ye reconciled to one another; withdraw your accusations against each other, be ye of one mind, and devote your attention to those subjects connected with the faith on account of which we are assembled.” After having thus urged them to cease from criminating each other, the emperor commanded the memorials to be burnt; and then appointed a day on which to commence the discussion of the questions which had brought them together. But before the appointed day arrived, the bishops assembled together, and having summoned Arius to attend, began to examine the disputed topics, each one amongst them advancing his own opinion. As might have been expected, however, many different questions started out of the investigation; some of the bishops spoke against the introduction of novelties contrary to the faith which had been delivered to them from the beginning, and those, especially, who had adhered to simplicity of doctrine, argued that the faith of God ought to be received without curious inquiries; others, however, contended that former opinions ought not to be retained without examination. Many of the bishops and of the inferior clergy attracted the notice of the emperor and the court by these disputations. Athanasius, who was then a deacon of Alexandria, and had accompanied the bishop Alexander, greatly distinguished himself at this juncture.








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