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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

THE various calamities which befell St. Athanasius were primarily occasioned by Eusebius and Theognis. As they possessed great influence over the emperor, they obtained the recall of Arius, with whom they were on terms of concord and friendship, to Alexandria, and at the same time the expulsion of Athanasius, who was apposed to them. They accused him before Constantine of being the author of all the seditions and troubles that agitated the church, and of excluding those who were desirous of joining the church; and alleged that unanimity would be restored were he alone to be removed. These calumnies were substantiated by many bishops and clergy who were with John, and who sedulously obtained access to the emperor; they pretended to great orthodoxy, and imputed to Athanasius and the bishops of his party all the bloodshed, imprisonments, conflagrations of churches, and deeds of violence and lawlessness which had been perpetrated. But when Athanasius wrote to the emperor and proved the illegality of the ordination of John’s adherents, showing that they had altered the decrees of the Nicæan Council, that their faith was not sound, and that they persecuted and calumniated the orthodox, Constantine was at a loss to know whom to believe. As he was much chagrined by the mutual and constant accusations of both parties, and desired most earnestly the restoration of unanimity of sentiment among the people, he wrote to Athanasius, desiring him to exclude no one from the church, and threatening to visit any act of disobedience to this command with instant expulsion from Alexandria. If any one should desire to see this letter of the emperor’s, he will here find the portion of it relating to this affair. It is as follows: “As you are now acquainted with my will, which is that all who desire to enter the church should be permitted to do so, you must not forbid any from entering. For should I hear that any who are willing to join the church have been debarred or hindered therefrom by you, I shall send and depose you by my decree, and shall have you conveyed to some other place.” Athanasius, however, wrote to the emperor and convinced him that the Arians ought not to be received into communion by the Catholic church; and Eusebius, perceiving that his schemes could never be carried into execution while exposed to the opposition of Athanasius, determined to resort to any means in order to get rid of him. But as he could not find any pretext for effecting this design, he promised the Meletians to interest the emperor and those in power in their favour, if they would bring an accusation against Athanasius. Accordingly, they first accused him of having obliged the Egyptians to pay a tax on linen tunics, and the accusers affirmed that the tax had been exacted from them. Apis and Macarius, presbyters of the church of Athanasius, who then happened to be at court, endeavoured to expose the calumny. On being summoned to answer for the offence, Athanasius was further accused of having conspired against the emperor, and of having sent for this purpose a casket of gold to one Philumen. The emperor detected the calumny, sent Athanasius back to his bishopric, and wrote to the people of Alexandria to testify that their bishop possessed great moderation and orthodoxy, that he had gladly received him, and recognised him to be a man of God, and that, as envy had been the sole cause of his accusation, he had triumphed over his accusers; and having heard that the Arian and Meletian sectarians had excited dissensions in Egypt, the emperor, in the same epistle, conjured the people to look to God, to take heed unto His judgments, to live in peace one with another, and to expel those who excited discord. Thus the emperor wrote to the people, exhorting them all to oneness of mind, and striving to prevent divisions in the church.








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