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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

INNOCENT, bishop of Rome, was extremely indignant when apprised of the measures that had been adopted against John, and condemned the whole proceedings. He then turned his attention to the convocation of an Œcumenical Council, and wrote to John and to the clergy of Constantinople. Subjoined are the two letters, precisely as I found them, translated from the Latin into Greek.

“Innocent, to the beloved brother John.

“Although one conscious of his own innocence ought to expect every blessing and to look for the mercy of God, yet it seems well to us to write to you by Cyriacus, the deacon, and to exhort you to patience, lest the contumely cast upon you should have more power in subduing your courage than the testimony of a good conscience in encouraging you to hope. It is not requisite to remind you, who are the teacher and pastor of so great a people, that God often tries the best of men and puts their patience to the severest tests; and that they are firmly supported under the most adverse occurrences that can befall them, by the approving voice of conscience. He who does not triumph over calamity by patience, is necessarily regarded with suspicion, for either his trust is not firm in God, or his own conscience condemns him. A good man may be sorely tried, but he cannot be overcome, for he is preserved and guarded by the truths of Holy Scripture. The Holy Bible, which we expound to the people, affords abundant examples of the afflictions to which the saints have been invariably subjected, and shows that they did not receive their crowns till they had passed with patience through the severest trials. Take courage, then, O honoured brother, from the testimony of your conscience, for virtue affords support in calamity. When you have been purified by affliction you will enter into the haven of peace, in the presence of Christ our Lord.”

“Innocent, the bishop, to the Presbyters, Deacons, and all the Clergy, and to the people of Constantinople under the episcopal guidance of John; peace be unto you, beloved brethren.

“From the letters that you forwarded to me through Germanus the presbyter, and Cassius the deacon, I have been made acquainted with the scenes of evil that have been enacted before your eyes, and have learnt how great has been the trial of faith among you. In such circumstances there is no remedy but patience. Our God will shortly put an end to such sufferings, and they will eventually tend to your profit. But I read with much pleasure several remarks at the commencement of your letter on the necessity of patience in affliction, and find that you have there anticipated the consolation which we ought to have conveyed to you in our letter. Our Lord gives to his servants the power of procuring consolation for themselves in tribulation, by the reflection that like afflictions were endured by the saints. And even we ourselves derive comfort from your letters, for we are not insensible to your sufferings, but suffer with you. Who, indeed, can endure to witness the disorders introduced by those who were bound to preserve peace and concord? But far from maintaining peace, they expel guiltless bishops from their own churches. John, our brother and fellow-minister and your bishop, has been the first to suffer this unjust treatment, without being allowed to speak in his own defence; no accusation was brought against him, nor was anything permitted to be advanced in his justification. What proceedings could be more contrary to reason than to give, without the formality of investigation or the shadow of justice, successors to living priests? Those who by such iniquitous measures have been appointed to their bishoprics, cannot surely be held in estimation in the church. Our fathers never acted in any way that could authorise so audacious a step, but on the contrary, prohibited it by enacting that no one should ever be ordained during the lifetime of a bishop as his successor. It is not possible that by so illegal an ordination a bishop can be excluded from his office, or that the dignity can be transferred to the person unjustly appointed to supplant him.

“With respect to the observance of canons, we declare that those established at Nicæa are alone entitled to the obedience of the Catholic Church. If any individuals should attempt to introduce other canons, at variance with those of Nicæa, and the compilation of heretics, such canons ought to be rejected by the Catholic Church: for it is not lawful to add the inventions of heretics to the catholic canons. Attempts are always being made by adversaries to subvert the objects aimed at by the fathers of Nicæa. We say, then, that the canons we have censured, are not only to be disregarded, but to be condemned with the dogmas of heretics and schismatics, even as they have been already condemned at the Council of Sardica by the bishops who were our predecessors. For it would be better, O honoured brethren, to condemn laudable enactments, than to establish any decrees that are contrary to the canons.

“What measures ought we to adopt under these adverse circumstances? It is necessary, as we have before said, to convene a council. There are no other means of arresting the fury of the tempest. Until a council can be assembled, it will be well to await the manifestation of the will of the Great God and of our Lord Christ. We shall thus behold the cessation of all the woes which have been excited by the malice of the devil, and which have served as trials for our faith. If we remain firm in the faith, there is nothing that we ought not to expect from our Lord. We are constantly watching for the opportunity of convening an Œcumenical Council, whereby, in accordance with the will of God, an end may be put to trouble and dissension. Let us, then, wait till this can be accomplished; and being supported by patience, let us trust in the goodness of God for the restoration of order.

“We had previously been made acquainted with all that you have related concerning your trials, by our fellow bishops, Demetrius, Cyriacus, Eleusius, and Palladius, who visited Rome at different periods; and while they were with us, we carefully enquired into all the details of the case.”








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