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The Arians Of The Fourth Century - Blessed John Henry Newman

THE second Œcumenical Council was held at Constantinople, A. D. 381–383. It is celebrated in the history of theology for its condemnation of the Macedonians, who, separating the Holy Spirit from the unity of the Father and Son, implied or inferred that He was a creature. A brief account of it is here added in its ecclesiastical aspect; the doctrine itself, to which it formally bore witness, having been incidentally discussed in the second chapter of this volume.

Death of Athanasius

Eight years before the date of this Council, Athanasius had been taken to his rest. After a life of contest, prolonged, in spite of the hardships he encountered, beyond the age of seventy years, he fell asleep in peaceable possession of the Churches, for which he had suffered. The Council of Alexandria was scarcely concluded, when he was denounced by Julian, and saved his life by flight or concealment. Returning on Jovian’s accession, he was for a fifth and last time forced to retreat before the ministers of his Arian successor Valens; and for four months lay hid in the sanctuary of his father’s sepulchre. On a representation being made to the new Emperor, even with the consent of the Arians themselves, he was finally restored; and so it happened, through the good providence of God, that the fury of persecution, heavily as it threatened in his last years, yet was suspended till his death, when it at once burst forth upon the Church with renewed vigour. Thus he was permitted to muse over his past services, and his prospects of the future; to collect his mind to meet his God, gathering himself up with Jacob on his bed of age, and yielding up the ghost peacefully among his children. The words of his own comment on the Psalms belong to himself. “God has promised,” he says, “to be a wall of fire round about, to those who believe in Him. The Apostolic Company knows this, and calls on Him to fulfil this promise to its members. Thou art my song always! By Thy providence I became famous. I was as a marvel unto many; yet not by mine own power had I so high a privilege. For Thou wert He, who gave me courage and zeal through Thine own aid. I have not been unmindful of what I was taught; but as I learned, so I told to others. Now that I am old and grey-headed, forsake me not, until I have showed Thy strength unto this generation, and Thy power, whereby the strong man was bound, and his goods spoiled. These I will show forth; nor Thy earthly blessings only, but those heavenly blessings too, which Thou hast purchased with Thine own blood.”

Yet, amid the decay of nature, and the visions of coming dissolution, the attention of Athanasius was in no wise turned from the active duties of his station. The vigour of his obedience remained unabated; one of his last acts being the excommunication of the Governor of Libya, for irregularity of life.

His death a loss to the Church

At length, when the Great Confessor was removed, the Church sustained a loss, from which it never recovered. His resolute resistance of heresy had been but one portion of his services; a more excellent praise is due to him, for his charitable skill in binding together his brethren in unity. The Church of Alexandria was the natural mediator between the East and West; and Athanasius had well improved the advantages thus committed to him. His judicious interposition in the troubles at Antioch has lately been described; and the dissensions between his own Church and Constantinople, which ensued upon his death, may be taken to show, how much the combination of the Catholics depended on his silent authority. Controversies were for ever starting into existence among the Greek Christians; and the Arian had corrupted their spirit, where it had failed to impair their orthodoxy. Disputation superseded faith, and ambition swayed the conduct, in the Eusebian school; and these evil introductions outlived its day. Patronised by the secular power, the great Churches of Christendom conceived a jealousy of each other, and gradually fortified themselves in their own resources. As Athanasius drew towards his end, the task of mediation became more difficult. In spite of his desire to keep aloof from party, circumstances threw him against his will into one of the two divisions, which were beginning to discover themselves in the Christian world. Even before his time, traces appear of a rivalry between the Asiatic and Egyptian Churches. The events of his own day, developing their differences of character, at the same time connected the latter with the Latins. The mistakes of his own friends obliged him to side with a seeming faction in the body of the Antiochene Church; and, in the schism which followed, he found himself in opposition to the Catholic communities of Asia Minor and the East. Still, though the course of events tended to ultimate disruptions in the Catholic Church, his personal influence remained unimpaired to the last, and enabled him to interpose with good effect in the affairs of the East. This is well illustrated by a letter addressed to him shortly before his death, by St. Basil, who belonged to the contrary party, and had then recently been elevated to the exarchate of Cæsarea. It is here inserted, and may serve as a sort of valediction in parting with one, who, after the Apostles, has been a principal instrument,by which the sacred truths of Christianity have been conveyed and secured to the world.

Basil’s reverence for Athanasius

“To Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. The more the sicknesses of the Church increase, so much the more earnestly do we all turn towards thy fulness of grace, persuaded that thy guardianship is our sole remaining comfort in our difficulties. By the power of thy prayers, by the wisdom of thy counsels, thou art able to carry us through this fearful storm; as all are sure, who have heard or made trial of thy gifts ever so little. Wherefore cease not both to pray for our souls, and to stir us up by thy letters; didst thou know the profit of these to us, thou wouldst never let pass an opportunity of writing to us. For me, were it vouchsafed to me, by the help of thy prayers, once to see thee, and to profit by the gifts lodged in thee, and to add to the history of my life a meeting with so great and apostolical a soul, surely I should consider myself to have received from the loving mercy of God a compensation for all the ills, with which my life has ever been afflicted.”

State of the East in the reign of Valens

The trials of the Church, spoken of by Basil in this letter, were the beginnings of the persecution directed against it by the Emperor Valens. This prince, who succeeded Jovian in the East, had been baptised by Eudoxius; who, from the time he became possessed of the see of Constantinople, was the chief, and soon became the sole, though a powerful, support of the Eusebian faction. He is said to have bound Valens by oath, at the time of his baptism, that he would establish Arianism as the state religion of the East; and thus to have prolonged its ascendancy for an additional sixteen years after the death of Constantius. At the beginning of this period, the heretical party had been weakened by the secession of the Semi-arians, who had not merely left them, but had joined the Catholics. This part of the history affords a striking illustration, not only of the gradual influence of truth over error, but of the remarkable manner in which Divine Providence makes use of error itself as a preparation for truth; i. e. employing the lighter forms of it in sweeping away those of a more offensive nature. Thus Semi-arianism became the bulwark and forerunner of the orthodoxy which it opposed. From A.D. 357, the date of the virtually Homœan formulary of Sirmium, it had protested against the impiety of the genuine Eusebians. In the successive Councils of Ancyra and Seleucia, in the two following years, it had condemned and deposed them; and had established the scarcely objectionable creed of Lucian. On its own subsequent disgrace at Court, it had concentrated itself on the Asiatic side of the Hellespont; while the high character of its leading bishops for gravity and strictness of life, and its influence over the monastic institutions, gave it a formidable popularity among the lower classes on the opposite coast of Thrace.

Concluding History of the Semi-arians

Seven years after the Council of Seleucia, in the reign of Valens, the Semi-arians held a Council at Lampsacus, in which they condemned the Homœan formulary of Ariminum, confirmed the creed of the Dedication, and, after citing the Eudoxians to answer the accusations brought against them, proceeded to ratify the deposition of them, which had already been pronounced at Seleucia. At this time they seem to have entertained hopes of gaining the Emperor; but finding the influence of Eudoxius paramount at Court, their horror or jealousy of his party led them to a bolder step. They resolved on putting themselves under the protection of Valentinian, the orthodox Emperor of the West; and, finding it necessary for this purpose to stand well with the Latin Church, they at length overcame their repugnance to the Homoousion, and subscribed a formula, of which, (at least till the Council of Constantinople, A. D. 360,) they had been among the most eager and obstinate opposers. Fifty-nine Semi-arian Bishops gave in their assent to orthodoxy on this memorable occasion, which took place A.D. 366. Their deputies were received into communion by Liberius, who had recovered himself at Ariminum, and who wrote letters in favour of these new converts to the Churches of the East. On their return, they presented themselves before an orthodox Council then sitting at Tyana, exhibited the commendatory letters which they had received from Italy, Gaul, Africa, and Sicily, as well as Rome, and were joyfully acknowledged by the assembled prelates as members of the Catholic body. A final Council was appointed at Tarsus; whither it was hoped all the Churches of the East would send representatives, in order to complete the reconciliation between the two parties. But enough had been done, as it would seem, in the external course of events, to unite the scattered portions of the Church; and, when that end was on the point of accomplishment, the usual law of Divine Providence intervened, and left the sequel of the union as a task and a trial for Christians individually. The project of the Council failed; thirty-four Semi-arian Bishops suddenly opposed themselves to the purpose of their brethren, and protested against the Homoousion. The Emperor, on the other hand, recently baptised by Eudoxius, interfered; forbad the proposed Council, and proceeded to issue an edict, in which all bishops were deposed from their sees, who had been banished under Constantius, and restored by Julian. It was at this time, that the fifth exile of Athanasius took place, which was lately mentioned. A more cruel persecution followed in A.D. 371, and lasted for several years. The death of Valens, A.D. 378, was followed by the final downfall of Arianism in the Eastern Church.

The Macedonians

As to Semi-arianism, it disappears from ecclesiastical history at the date of the Council of Tarsus; from which time the portion of the party, which remained non-conformist, is more properly designated Macedonian, or Pneumatomachist, from the chief article of their heresy.

State of the Church of Constantinople

During the reign of Valens, much had been done in furtherance of evangelical truth, in the still remaining territory of Arianism, by the proceedings of the Semi-arians; but at the same period, symptoms of returning orthodoxy, even in its purest form, had appeared in Constantinople itself. On the death of Eudoxius (A. D. 370), the Catholics elected an orthodox successor, by name Evagrius. He was instantly banished by the Emperor’s command; and the population of Constantinople seconded the act of Valens, by the most unprovoked excesses towards the Catholics. Eighty of their clergy, who were in consequence deputed to lay their grievances before Valens, were put to death under circumstances of extreme treachery and barbarity. Faith, which was able to stand its ground in such a season of persecution, was naturally prompted to more strenuous acts, when prosperous times succeeded. On the death of Valens, the Catholics of Constantinople looked beyond their own community for assistance, in combating the dominant heresy. Evagrius, whom they had elected to the see, seems to have died in exile; and they invited in his place the celebrated Gregory Nazianzen, a man of diversified accomplishments, distinguished for his eloquence, and still more for his orthodoxy, his integrity, and the innocence, amiableness, and refinement of his character.

Gregory Nazianzen

Gregory was a native of Cappadocia, and an intimate friend of the great Basil, with whom he had studied at Athens. On Basil’s elevation to the exarchate of Cæsarea, Gregory had been placed by him in the bishoprick of Sasime; but, the appointment being contested by Anthimus, who claimed the primacy of the lower Cappadocia, he retired to Nazianzus, his father’s diocese, where he took on himself those labours, to which the elder Gregory had become unequal. After the death of the latter, he remained for several years without pastoral employment, till the invitation of the Catholics brought him to Constantinople. His election was approved by Meletius, patriarch of Antioch; and by Peter, the successor of Athanasius, who by letter recognised his accession to the metropolitan see.

His exertions in Constantinople

On his first arrival there, he had no more suitable place of worship than his own lodgings, where he preached the Catholic doctrine to the dwindled communion over which he presided. But the result which Constantius had anticipated, when he denied to Athanasius a church in Antioch, soon showed itself at Constantinople. His congregation increased; the house, in which they assembled, was converted into a church by the pious liberality of its owner, with the name of Anastasia, in hope of that resurrection which now awaited the long-buried truths of the Gospel. The contempt, with which the Arians had first regarded him, was succeeded by a persecution on the part of the populace. An attempt was made to stone him; his church was attacked, and he himself brought before a magistrate, under pretence of having caused the riot. Violence so unjust did but increase the influence, which a disdainful toleration had allowed him to establish; and the accession of the orthodox Theodosius secured it.

Conduct of Theodosius

On his arrival at Constantinople, the new Emperor resolved on executing in his capital the determination, which he had already prescribed by edict to the Eastern empire. The Arian bishops were required to subscribe the Nicene formulary, or to quit their sees. Demophilus, the Eusebian successor of Eudoxius, who was before introduced to our notice as an accomplice in the seduction of Liberius, was first presented with the alternative; and, with an honesty of which his party affords few instances, he refused to assent at once to opinions, which he had throughout his life been opposing, and retired from the city. Many bishops, however, of the Arian party conformed; and the Church was unhappily inundated by the very evil, which in the reign of Constantine the Athanasians had strenuously and successfully withstood.

Its unfortunate policy

The unfortunate policy, which led to this measure, might seem at first sight to be sanctioned by the decree of the Alexandrian Council, which made subscription the test of orthodoxy; but, on a closer inspection, the cases will be found to be altogether dissimilar. When Athanasius acted upon that principle, in the reign of Julian, there was no secular object to be gained by conformity; or rather, the malevolence of the Emperor was peculiarly directed against those, whether orthodox or Semi-arians, who evinced any earnestness in the subject of Christianity. Even then, the recognition was not extended to those, who had taken an active part on the side of heresy. On the other hand, the example of Athanasius himself, and Alexander of Constantinople, in the reign of Constantine, sufficiently marked their judgment; both of whom had resisted the attempt of the Court to force Arius upon the Church, even though he professed his assent to the Homoousion.

Gregory acquiesces

Whether or not it was in Gregory’s power to hinder the recognition of the Arianizers, or whether his firmness was not equal to his humility and zeal, the consequences of the measure are visible in the conduct of the General Council, which followed it. He himself may be considered as the victim of it; and he has left us in poetry and oratory his testimony to the unsoundness of principle, which the continued agitations of controversy had occasioned in the Eastern Church.

His description of himself and his times

The following passage, from one of his Orations, illustrates both the state of the times, and his own beautiful character, though unequal to struggle against them. “Who is there,” he says, “but will find, on measuring himself by St. Paul’s rules for the conduct of Bishops and Priests,—that they should be sober, chaste, not fond to wine, not strikers, instructive, unblameable in all things, unassailable by the wicked,—that he falls far short of its perfection?… I am alarmed to think of our Lord’s censure of the Pharisees, and condemnation of the Scribes; disgraceful indeed would it be, should we, who are bid be so far above them in righteousness, in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, appear even worse than they.… These thoughts haunt me night and day; they consume my bones, and feed on my flesh; they keep me from confidence, or from walking with erect countenance. They so humble me and cramp my mind, and place a chain on my tongue, that I cannot think of a Ruler’s office, nor of correcting and guiding others, which is a talent above me; but only, how I myself may flee from the wrath to come, and wash myself some little from the poison of my sin. First, I must be reformed, and then reform others; learn wisdom, and then impart it; draw near to God, and then bring others; be cleansed, and then cleanse. ‘When will you ever get to the end of this?’ say the hasty and incautious, who are quick to build and to pull down. ‘When will you place your light on a candlestick? Where is your talent?’ So say friends of mine, who have more zeal for me than sobriety. Ah, my brave men, why ask my season for acting, and my plan? Surely the last day of payment is soon enough, the very close of life is an early day. Grey hairs have prudence, and youth is inexpert. Best be slow and sure; a kingdom for a day, not a tyranny for a life; a little gold, not a weight of lead. It was the shallow earth shot forth the early blade.… Truly there is cause of fear, lest I be bound hand and foot and cast without the marriage chamber, as a bold intruder without fitting garment among the assembled guests. And yet I was called thither from my youth, (to confess a matter of my private life,) and on God was I thrown from the womb; made over to Him by my mother’s vow, fixed in His service by hardships afterwards. Yea, and my own wish shot up beside His purpose, and my reason ran along with it; and all I had to give, wealth, splendour, health, literature, I brought and offered them to Him, who called and saved me; my sole enjoyment of them being the resolve to turn away from them, my sole gain the loss of them for Christ. To undertake the government and guidance of souls is above me, who have not yet well learned to be guided, nor to be sanctified as far as is fitting. Much more is this so in a time like the present; when it is a great thing to secure some shelter from the encompassing storm, in which one sees others tossed to and fro, and so to escape the tempestuous and rayless night. This is a time when the members of the Christian body war with each other, and the scant residue of love is scattered abroad.… Moabites and Ammonites, who were forbidden even to enter the Church of Christ, now tread our holiest places. We have opened to all, not gates of righteousness, but of mutual reviling and injury. We think those the best of men, not who keep from every idle word through fear of God, but such as have most success in slandering their neighbour, openly or covertly, and cherish under their tongue tumult and trouble, or, (to speak more truly,) the poison of asps. And we hunt out the sins of others, not to lament but to blame them; not to cure but to open the sore; and to make the wounds of others an excuse for our own. Men are judged good and bad, not by their conduct, but by friendship and enmity. We praise to-day, we call names tomorrow. Impiety meets with every allowance. So magnanimously are we forgiving in wicked ways!

Maximus, the Cynic

The first disturbance in the reviving Church of Constantinople had arisen from the ambition of Maximus, a Cynic philosopher, who aimed at supplanting Gregory in his Patriarchate. He was a friend and countryman of Peter, the new Patriarch of Alexandria; and had suffered banishment in the Oasis on the persecution which followed, the death of Athanasius. His reputation was considerable among learned men of the day, as is shown by the letters addressed to him by Basil. Gregory fell in with him at Constantinople; and pleased at he apparent strictness and manliness of his conduct, he received him into his house, baptized him, and at length admitted him into inferior orders. The return made by Maximus to his benefactor, was to conduct an intrigue with one of his principal Presbyters; to gain over Peter of Alexandria, who had already recognized Gregory; to obtain from him the presence of three of his Bishops; and, breaking into the metropolitan Church during the night, to instal himself, with their aid, in the episcopal throne. A tumult ensued, and he was obliged to leave the city; but, far from being daunted at the immediate failure of his plot, he laid his case before a Council of the West, his plea consisting on the one hand, in a pretence that Gregory held the See contrary to the Canons, as being Bishop of another Church, and on the other hand, in the recognition which he had obtained from the Patriarch of Alexandria. The Council, deceived by his representations, approved of his consecration; but Theodosius, to whom he next addressed himself, saw through his artifices, and banished him.

Gregory resolves to retire

Fresh mortifications awaited the eloquent preacher, to whom the Church of Constantinople owed its resurrection. While the Arians censured his retiring habits, and his abstinence from the innocent pleasures of life, his own flock began to complain of his neglecting to use his influence at Court for their advantage. Overwhelmed with the disquietudes, to which these occurrences gave birth, Gregory resolved to bid adieu to a post, which required a less sensitive or a more vigorous mind than his own. In a farewell oration, he recounted his labours and sufferings during the time he had been among them, commemorated his success, and exhorted them to persevere in the truth, which they had learned from him. His congregation were affected by this address; and, a reaction of feeling taking place, they passionately entreated him to abandon a resolve, which would involve the ruin of orthodoxy in Constantinople, and they declared that they would not quit the Church, till he acceded to their importunities. At their entreaties, he consented to suspend the execution of his purpose for a while; that is, until the Eastern prelates who were expected at the General Council, which had by that time been convoked, should appoint a Bishop in his room.

He is put into possession of St. Sophia by the Civil Power

The circumstances attending the arrival of Theodosius at Constantinople, connected as they were with the establishment of the true religion, still were calculated to inflict an additional wound on his feelings; and to increase his indisposition to continue in a situation, endeared to him by its earlier associations. The inhabitants of an opulent and luxurious metropolis, familiarized to Arianism by its forty years ascendancy among them, and disgusted at the apparent severity of the orthodox school, prepared to resist the installation of Gregory in the cathedral of St. Sophia. A strong military force was appointed to escort him thither; and the Emperor gave countenance to the proceedings by his own presence. Allowing himself to be put in possession of the Church, Gregory was nevertheless firm to his purpose of not seating himself upon the Archiepiscopal throne; and, when the light-minded multitude clamorously required it, he was unequal to the task of addressing them, and deputed one of his Presbyters to speak in his stead.

His dislike of the Court

Nor were the manners of the Court more congenial to his well-regulated mind, than the lawless spirit of the people. Offended at the disorders which he witnessed there, he shunned the condescending advances of the Emperor; and was with difficulty withdrawn from the duties of his station, the solitude of his own thoughts, and the activity of pious ministrations, prayer and fasting, the punishment of offenders and the visitation of the sick. Careless of personal splendour, he allowed the revenues of his see to be expended in supporting its dignity, by inferior ecclesiastics, who were in his confidence; and, while he defended the principle, on which Arianism had been dispossessed of its power, he exerted himself with earnestness to protect the heretics from all intemperate execution of the Imperial decree.

Of the Arianizing Prelates

Nor was the elevated refinement of Gregory better adapted to sway the minds of the corrupt hierarchy which Arianism had engendered, than to rule the Court and the people. “If I must speak the truth,” he says in one of his letters, “I feel disposed to shun every conference of the Heads of the Church; because I never saw Synod brought to a happy issue, nor remedying, but rather increasing, existing evils. For rivalry and ambition are stouter than verbal decisions;—do not think me extravagant for saying so;—and a mediator is more likely to be assailed himself, than to succeed in his attempt at pacification. Accordingly, I have fallen back upon my own resources, and consider retirement the only means of tranquillity.”

Council of Constantinople

Such was the state of things, under which the second Œcumenical Council, as it has since been considered, was convoked. It assembled in May, A. D. 381; being designed to put an end, as far as might be, to those very disorders, which unhappily found their principal exercise in the meetings which were to remove them. The Western Church enjoyed at this time an almost perfect peace, and sent no deputies to Constantinople. But in the Oriental provinces, besides the distractions caused by the various heretical offshoots of Arianism, its indirect effects existed in the dissensions of the Catholics themselves; the schism at Antioch; the claims of Maximus to the see of Constantinople; and recent disturbances at Alexandria, where the loss of Athanasius was already painfully visible. Added to these, was the ambiguous position of the Macedonians; who resisted the orthodox doctrine, yet were only by implication heretical, or at least some of them far less than others. Thirty-six of their Bishops attended the Council, principally from the neighbourhood of the Hellespont; of the orthodox 150, Meletius, of Antioch, being the president. Other eminent prelates present were Gregory Nyssen, brother of St. Basil, who had died some years before; Amphilochius of Iconium, Diodorus of Tarsus, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Gelasius of Cæsaræa, in Palestine.

Death of Meletius

The Council had scarcely accomplished its first act, the establishment of Gregory in the see of Constantinople, to the exclusion of Maximus, when Meletius, the President, died; an unhappy event, as not only removing a check from its more turbulent members, but in itself supplying the materials of immediate discord. An arrangement had been effected between the two orthodox communions at Antioch, by which it was provided, that the survivor of the rival Bishops should be acknowledged by the opposite party, and a termination thus put to the schism. This was in accordance with the principle acted upon by the Alexandrian Council, on the separation of the Meletians from the Arians. At that time the Eustathian party was called on to concede, by acknowledging Meletius; and now, on the death of Meletius, it became the duty of the Meletians in turn to submit to Paulinus, whom Lucifer had consecrated as Bishop of the Eustathians. Schism, however, admits not of these simple remedies. The self-will of a Latin Bishop had defeated the plan of conciliation in the former instance; and now the pride and jealousy of the Orientals revolted from communion with a prelate of Latin creation. The attempt of Gregory, who had succeeded to the presidency of the Council, to calm their angry feelings, and to persuade them to deal fairly with the Eustathians, as well as to restore peace to the Church, only directed their violence against himself. It was in vain that his own connexion with the Meletian party evidenced the moderation and candour of his advice; in vain that the age of Paulinus gave assurance, that the nominal triumph of the Latins could be of no long continuance. Flavian, who, together with others, had solemnly sworn, that he would not accept the bishoprick in case of the death of Meletius, permitted himself to be elevated to the vacant see; and Gregory, driven from the Council, took refuge from its clamours in a remote part of Constantinople.

Arrival of the Egyptian Prelates

About this time the arrival of the Egyptian bishops increased the dissension. By some inexplicable omission they had not been summoned to the Council; and they came, inflamed with resentment against the Orientals. They had throughout taken the side of Paulinus, and now their earnestness in his favour was increased by their jealousy of his opponents. Another cause of offence was given to them, in the recognition of Gregory before their arrival; nor did his siding with them in behalf of Paulinus avail to avert from him the consequences of their indignation. Maximus was their countryman, and the deposition of Gregory was necessary to appease their insulted patriotism. Accordingly, the former charge was revived of the illegality of his promotion. A Canon of the Nicene Council prohibited the translation of bishops priests, or deacons, from church to church and, while it was calumniously pretended, that Gregory had held in succession three bishopricks, Sasime, Nazianzus, and Constantinople, it could not be denied, that, at least, he had passed from Nazianzus, the place of his original ordination, to the Imperial city. Urged by this fresh attack, Gregory once more resolved to retire from an eminence, which he had from the first been reluctant to occupy, except for the sake of the remembrances, with which it was connected. The Emperor with difficulty accepted his resignation; but at length allowed him to depart from Constantinople, Nectarius being placed on the patriarchal throne in his stead.

Council of Aquileia

In the mean while, a Council had been held at Aquileia of the bishops of the north of Italy, with a view of inquiring into the faith of two Bishops of Dacia, accused of Arianism. During its session, news was brought of the determination of the Constantinopolitan Fathers to appoint a successor to Meletius; and surprised both by the unexpected continuation of the schism, and by the slight put on themselves, they petitioned Theodosius to permit a general Council to be convoked at Alexandria, which the delegates of the Latin Church might attend. Some dissatisfaction, moreover, was felt for a time at the appointment of Nectarius, in the place of Maximus, whom they had originally recognized. They changed their petition shortly after, and expressed a wish that a Council should be held at Rome.

Correspondence between the two Councils

These letters from the West were submitted to the Council of Constantinople, at its second, or, (as some say,) third sitting, A.D. 382 or 383, at which Nectarius presided. An answer was returned to the Latins, declining to repair to Rome, on the ground of the inconvenience, which would arise from the absence of the Eastern bishops from their dioceses; the Creed and other doctrinal statements of the Council were sent them, and the promotion of Nectarius and Flavian was maintained to be agreeable to the Nicene Canons, which determined, that the Bishops of a province had the right of consecrating such of their brethren, as were chosen by the people and clergy, without the interposition of foreign Churches; an exhortation to follow peace was added, and to prefer the edification of the whole body of Christians, to personal attachments and the interests of individuals.

Additions to the Nicene Creed

Thus ended the second General Council. As to the addition made by it to the Nicene Creed, it is conceived in the temperate spirit; which might be expected from those men, who took the more active share in its doctrinal discussions. The ambitious and tumultuous part of the assembly seems to have been weary of the controversy, and to have left the settlement of it to the more experienced and serious-minded of their body. The Creed of Constantinople is said to be the composition of Gregory Nyssen.

From the date of this Council, Arianism was formed into a sect exterior to the Catholic Church; and, taking refuge among the Barbarian Invaders of the Empire, is merged among those external enemies of Christianity, whose history cannot be regarded as strictly ecclesiastical. Such is the general course of religious error; which rises within the sacred precincts, but in vain endeavours to take root in a soil uncongenial to it. The domination of heresy, however prolonged, is but one stage in its existence; it ever hastens to an end, and that end is the triumph of the Truth. “I myself have seen the ungodly in great power,” says the Psalmist, “and flourishing like a green bay tree; I went by, and lo, he was gone; I sought him, but his place could no where be found.” Even the Papal Apostacy, which seems at first sight an exception to this rule, has lasted but the same proportion of the whole duration of Christianity, which Arianism occupied in its day; that is, if we date it, as in fairness we ought, from the fatal Council of Trent. And, as to the present perils, with which our branch of the Church is beset, as they bear a marked resemblance to those of the fourth century, so are the lessons, which the latter period offers us, especially cheering and edifying to Christians of the present day. Then as now, there was the prospect, and partly the presence in the Church, of an Heretical Power enthralling it, exerting a varied influence and an usurped claim in the appointment of her functionaries, and interfering with the management of her internal affairs. Now as then, “whosoever shall fall upon this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” Meanwhile, we may take comfort in reflecting, that, though the present tyranny has more of insult, it has hitherto had less of scandal, than attended the ascendancy of Arianism; we may rejoice in the piety, prudence, and varied graces of our Spiritual Rulers; and may rest in the confidence, that, should the hand of Satan press us sore, our Athanasius and Basil will be given us in their destined season, to break the bonds of the Oppressor, and let the captives go free.








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