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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

NECTARIUS died about this period, and lengthened debates were held on the ordination of a successor. Great division of opinion prevailed on this subject. There was, however, at Antioch on the Orontes, a certain presbyter, named John; a man of noble birth, and of exemplary life, and possessed of such wonderful powers of eloquence and persuasion, that he was declared, by Libanius the Syrian, to surpass all the orators of the age. When this sophist was on his death-bed, he was asked by his friends, who should take his place. “It would have been John,” replied he, “had not the Christians taken him from us.” Many of those who heard the discourses of John in the church, were thereby excited to the love of virtue, and to the reception of his own religious sentiments. But it was chiefly by the bright example of his private virtues, that John inspired his auditors with emulation. He produced conviction the more readily, because he did not resort to rhetorical artifices, but expounded the Sacred Scriptures with truth and sincerity. Arguments which are corroborated by actions always commend themselves as worthy of belief; but when a preacher’s deeds will not bear investigation, his words, even when he is anxious to declare the truth, are regarded as contradictory. John taught, both by precept and example; for while on the one hand his course of life was virtuous and austere, on the other hand he possessed considerable eloquence and persuasiveness of diction. His natural abilities were excellent, and he improved them by studying under the best masters. He learnt rhetoric from Libanius, and philosophy from Andragathius. It was expected that he would have embraced the legal profession, but he devoted himself to the study of the Sacred Scriptures, and to a life of ecclesiastical philosophy, under the guidance of Carterius and Diodorus, two celebrated presidents of monastic assemblies. Diodorus was afterwards bishop of Tarsus, and I have been informed, wrote several works in which he explained the words of Scripture according to their literal meaning, without having recourse to allegory. John did not receive the instructions of these men by himself, but persuaded Theodore and Maximus, who had studied with him under Libanius, to accompany him. Maximus afterwards became bishop of Seleucia, in Isauria; and Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia, in Cilicia. Theodore was a learned man, well conversant with sacred and profane literature. After studying the ecclesiastical laws, and frequenting the society of holy men, he was filled with admiration of the ascetic mode of life, and devoted himself to it. Afterwards, however, he changed his purpose, and resumed his former course of life, and to justify his conduct, cited many examples from ancient history, with which he was well acquainted. On hearing of the steps he had taken, John addressed a most divine epistle to him, which contained thoughts and expressions apparently transcending all productions of the human mind. Upon receiving this letter, Theodore gave up his possessions, renounced his intention of marrying, and, in accordance with the remonstrances of John, returned to the profession of monasticism. This seems to me a remarkable instance of the power of John’s eloquence; for he readily forced conviction on the mind of one who was himself habituated to persuade and convince others. By the same eloquence, John attracted the admiration of the people, while he strenuously expatiated against sin, and testified the same indignation against all acts of injustice as if they had been perpetrated against himself. This boldness pleased the people, but grieved the wealthy and the powerful, who were guilty of most of the vices which he denounced.

Being, then, held in such high estimation by those who knew him personally, and by those who were acquainted with him through the reports of others, John was adjudged worthy, in word and in deed, by all the subjects of the Roman empire, to preside over the Church of Constantinople. The clergy and people were unanimous in electing him; their choice was approved by the Emperor; messengers were despatched for John; and, to confer greater solemnity on his ordination, a Council was convened. When the edict of the Emperor reached Asterius, the general of the East, he sent to desire John to repair to him, as if he had need of him. On his arrival, he made him get into his chariot, and conveyed him to Pagras, where he delivered him to the officers whom the Emperor had sent in quest of him. Asterius acted very prudently in sending for John before the citizens of Antioch knew what was about to transpire; for they would probably have excited a sedition, and have inflicted injury on others, or subjected themselves to acts of violence, rather than have suffered John to be taken from them.

When John had arrived at Constantinople, and when the priests were assembled together, Theophilus opposed his ordination, and proposed as a candidate, in his stead, a presbyter of his church, named Isidore, who took charge of strangers and of the poor at Alexandria. I have been informed by persons who were acquainted with Isidore, that from his youth upwards, he led a life of virtue and asceticism, near Scetis. Others say, that he had gained the friendship of Theophilus by assisting him in a very perilous undertaking. For it is reported that during the war against Maximus, Theophilus entrusted Isidore with gifts and letters respectively addressed to the emperor and to Maximus, and sent him to Rome, desiring him to remain there until the termination of the war, when he was to deliver the gifts, with the letters, to whoever might prove the victor. Isidore acted according to his instructions, but the artifice was detected; and, fearful of being arrested, he fled to Alexandria. Theophilus from that period evinced much attachment towards him, and with a view of recompensing his services, strove to raise him to the bishopric of Constantinople. But whether there was really any truth in this report, or whether Theophilus was solely influenced by a sense of the merit of Isidore, in proposing him for election, it is certain that he eventually yielded to the wishes of the other bishops, and nominated John. He was induced to accede to the ordination of John from fear of the menaces of Eutropius, who held a situation in the palace, and who threatened, unless he would vote with the other bishops, to call him to account at the Synod for his conduct; for many accusations had been preferred against him.








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