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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

THEOPHILUS kept his designs against John as secret as possible; and wrote to the bishops of every city, condemning the books of Origen. It also occurred to him that it would be advantageous to enlist Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis, in Cyprus, on his side, because the eminent virtues of this prelate had secured him universal admiration; and he therefore formed a friendship with him, although he had formerly blamed him for asserting that God possessed a human form. As if repentant of having ever entertained any other sentiment, Theophilus wrote to Epiphanius to acquaint him, that he now held the same opinions as himself, and to condemn the works of Origen, whence he had drawn his former hypothesis. Epiphanius had long regarded the writings of Origen with peculiar aversion, and was therefore easily led to attach credit to the epistle of Theophilus. He soon after assembled the bishops of Cyprus together, and prohibited the perusal of the books of Origen. He also wrote to the other bishops, and among others, to the bishop of Constantinople, exhorting them to issue similar prohibitions. Theophilus, perceiving that there could be no danger in following the example of Epiphanius, whose exalted virtues were universally appreciated and reverenced, assembled the bishops of his province, and enacted a similar decree. John, on the other hand, paid little attention to the letters of Epiphanius and Theophilus. Those among the powerful and the clergy who were opposed to him, perceived that the designs of Theophilus tended to his ejection from the bishopric, and therefore endeavoured to procure the convention of a council in Constantinople, in order to carry this measure into execution. Theophilus exerted himself to the utmost in convening this council; he commanded the bishops of Egypt to repair by sea to Constantinople; he wrote to request Epiphanius and the other Eastern bishops to proceed to that city with as little delay as possible, and he himself set off on the journey thither by land. Epiphanius was the first to sail from Cyprus; he landed at Hebdoma, a suburb of Constantinople, and after having prayed in the church erected at that place, he proceeded to enter the city. In order to do him honour, John went out with all his clergy to meet him. Epiphanius, however, evinced clearly by his conduct that he believed the disadvantageous report that had been spread against John, for he would not remain in his house, and avoided all intercourse with him. He also privately assembled all the bishops who were in Constantinople, and showed them the decrees that he had issued against the works of Origen. Some of the bishops approved of these decrees, while others objected to them. Theotimus, bishop of Scythia, strongly opposed the proceedings of Epiphanius, and told him that it was not right to cast insult on the memory of one who had long been numbered with the dead, nor to call into question the conclusion to which the ancients had arrived on the subject. While discoursing in this strain, he drew forth a work of Origen’s which he had brought with him; and after reading aloud a passage conducive to the edification of the church, he remarked that those who condemned such sentiments were guilty of manifest absurdity, and that while they were ridiculing the words of the author, they were evidently in danger of being tempted to ridicule the subjects themselves upon which he wrote. John manifested great respect towards Epiphanius, and invited him to join in the meetings of his church, and to dwell with him. But Epiphanius declared that he would neither reside with John, nor pray with him, unless he would denounce the works of Origen and expel Dioscorus and his companions from the city. Not considering it just to act in the manner proposed until judgment had been passed on the case, John tried to postpone the adoption of further measures to some future time. In the meantime his enemies met together, and arranged that on the day when the people would be assembled in the Church of the Apostles, Epiphanius should publicly pronounce condemnation on the works of Origen, and on Dioscorus and his companions as the partizans of this writer; and also denounce the bishop of the city as the abettor of Dioscorus. By this means, it was hoped, that the affections of the people would be alienated from their bishop. The following day, when Epiphanius was about entering the church, in order to carry his design into execution, he was stopped by Serapion, at the command of John, who had received intimation of the plot. Serapion proved to Epiphanius that while the project he had devised was unjust in itself, it could be of no personal advantage to him, for that, if it should excite a popular insurrection, he would be regarded as responsible for the outrages that might follow. By these arguments Epiphanius was induced to relinquish his designs.








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