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in the debate St. Athanasius distinguished himself by force of argument in defence of the Catholic faith. In fine, the Arian doctrine was proscribed, and Jesus Christ declared to be truly God, consubstantial, or having the same eternal substance with the Father, and that the Father is in him, and he in the Father. In consequence of this determination they drew up a profession of the Catholic faith, which is called the Nicene Creed, to which all subscribed, except a few Arian bishops. These, with Arius and his other adherents, were anathematized by the council, and banished by Constantine,
In this manner the Catholic faith was ascertained, and triumphed over its enemies: but the spirit of heresy, which is always restless, could not be quelled. The Arians, though every way confounded, instead of yielding, employed themselves in raising fresh troubles. They wrote to the emperor, and by pretending to admit the Nicene faith, they got themselves recalled from banishment; they then set themselves to poison the emperor's mind by different arts, by slanders and calumnies against the Catholic bishops, and prevailed upon him to banish some of them, among whom was St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria. But not stopping there, they concerted a scheme to get Arius received into the Church, even in the imperial city of Constantinople, and in the presence of the emperor who then resided there, in 336. For that purpose they insinuated to Constantine, that Arius was become orthodox in his doctrine, and they requested he might be called to Constantinople. This being granted, and Arius arrived in the city, the emperor sent for him, and asked him if he received the Nicene faith? the heresiarch answered in the affirmative, and presented to the emperor a written profession of faith, in appearance not different from that of Nice, but conceived in artful and ambiguous terms. The emperor, supposing him sincere, desired Alexander, bishop of Constantinople, to receive him into the Catholic Communion. The holy prelate remonstrated pathetically against such a dangerous and uncanonical step, but Arius's friends were clamorous, and insisted on the emperor's desire being complied with. The bishop retired immediately into the church, prostrated himself before the altar, and in his fervent prayer thus addressed Almighty God: “Lord, if Arius must be received into the church, be pleased to take me out of the world; but if you have compassion on your church, as I know you bave, permit not your inheritance to become an object of contempt." Next morning Arius's friends assembled, and resolved to conduct him to church in spite of the bishop. They were leading him, as in triumph, through the streets, when on a sudden finding himself pressed by a necessity of nature, he retired into a back place to ease himself; but there with his excrements he voided his bowels, and was found dead. Thus was the hand of God visible upon Arius.
This ambitious apostate and proud heresiarch had taken peace from the earth, had disturbed the Church of Christ, and created a fatal division among the Christians. “ The church was in a flourishing condition,” says the historian, Eusebius, speaking of the rise of Arianism, " and the faithful employed themselves in all kinds of holy exercises with comfort and joy; nor was there the least danger to be feared from any foreign enemy. But a secret jealousy unhappily crept in. It first insinuated itself into the minds of the people, then found its way into the assemblies of the bishops, whom it animated against another, one by raising disputes and altercations among them concerning the Christian doctrine. This .small beginning gave rise to a great flane, which first broke out at Alexandria,” having been there kindled by Arius. 'De vita Const. lib. 2. c. 61.
Constantine the Great, dying in 337, left three sons, who divided the empire according to their father's directions. Constantine, the eldest, had Spain, Gaul, and all the provinces on this side of the Alps, Constantius, the second son, had Thrace, Asia, Egypt, and the eastern countries : and Constans, the youngest, had Italy, Sicily, Africa, except Egypt, Greece, and Illyricum. Constantius was soon gained over by the Arians, and his family was chiefly composed of them. From his palace the infection diffused itself, first into private families, and by degrees was propagated into the towns and even distant provinces under his dominion. Many bishops imbibed the contagion, and communicated it to their flocks. This great accession of number increased the Arian power, which they did not fail to exert in persecuting the orthodox Christians. They gave great trouble to St. Athanasius by the calumnies they invented against him, and they intruded into his see of Alexandria, by force of arms, a bishop of their own party in his place. When St. Alexander, bishop of Constantinople, died in 340, Paul, a true Catholic, was chosen his successor, but the Arian faction deposed him with the agreement of the Emperor Constantius, and substituted in his room the arch-Arian, Eusebius of Nicomedia. From that date the Arians were masters in Constantinople, for forty years. They carried on every thing by violence in the east : relying on the protection of the Emperor Constantius, they arrogated the power of deposing at their pleasure the orthodox prelates, and filling their places with Arians.
By all these different means, Arianism had very much diffused itself through the east, while the west was but little tainted with it. This produced great disunion in the church; which occasioned a council to be held at Sardica, in Illyricum, in 347. It was composed of about 250 bishops convened from both the eastern and western provinces, of whom 170 were orthodox, and fourscore of the Arian party. Several of the bishops and others there showed the wounds they had received from the swords of the Arians; they complained of the cruel hardship they had been made to suffer, under which some had even perished; they gave account of the violences committed by the soldiers and people, and of the threats of the judges : they represented that the virgins were stripped of their substance, the holy ministers imprisoned, and the churches burned. These and other persecutions, that had been carried on by the Arians, they recapitulated before the council. The Arian party expected to domineer in the council by means of the secular power, but they found they were disappointed. They saw that the fathers would have full liberty allowed them to judge, and that themselves would be condemned. They therefore retired abruptly, and went to Philippopolis in Thrace. The council nevertheless proceeded to business, and declared their firm adherence to the Nicene faith. They restored St. Athanasius and two other bishops to their sees, from whence they had been expelled, and they pronounced sentence of deposition and excommunication against eleven bishops, who were the chiefs of the Arian faction. Then the fathers despatched deputies to the emperors to press the execution of these decrees, and to entreat them to put a stop to Arian persecutions. The Oriental heretic bishops, who had retired to Philippopolis, held there . a meeting, which they were bold enough to call the council of Sardica, and had the presumption to excommunicate Pope Julius, Osius of Corduba, and several other Catholic bishops. Moreover, when the Arians heard they had been condemned at the true council of Sardica, they redoubled their violences against the orthodox. They caused several to be put to death; some were exiled, others scourged, and others imprisoned.
Constantius, after the death of his brothers, Constantine and Constans, having suppressed the usurpers Vertrannio and Magnentius, became master of the whole empire in 353. Two years after he commenced a general persecution against the Catholics. He sent judges through the different provinces to compel the bishops to communicate with the Arians, and to subscribe to the sentence against St. Athanasius, whom he had procured to be condemned in a meeting of some Arian bishops at Milan. The prelates, who refused to comply, were banished, and others of the Arian faction intruded by force of arms. It was upon this occasion that Pope Liberius was exiled to Beræa in Thrace. The judges were also directed to imprison, punish, and confiscate the goods of the people who should take part with the exiled bishops. Macedonius, the Arian bishop and usurper of the see of Constantinople, made himself conspicuous in this scene of persecution. He obtained an edict from the emperor, which he published in Constantinople, and in all the neighbouring towns, and had it executed by force of arms, which ordered that all the Catholics should be banished, and their churches pulled down. But not content with these violences, he procured several persons to be burned in the forehead, others to be exposed to different torments, of which some died. · In 359 was held a council at Arminium in Italy, consisting of above four hundred bishops, of whom about fourscore were Arians. They received orders from the Emperor Constantius, to attempt nothing against the Orientals. The council nevertheless confirmed the Nicene faith, and deposed the heterodox bishops that were present.. The Arians here dressed up a fraudulent profession of faith, in appearance Catholic, but containing the, Arian poison under artful ambiguous expressions. The Catholics, not aware of the fraud, and supposing the profession to be orthodox, subscribed it. It was in consequence of this subscription that St. Jerome made the following remark : “ The world,” said he, “was struck with grief, and wondered to find itself become Arian."* But the fathers no sooner perceived the imposition that had been put upon them, than they expressed their detestation of it, retracted their subscription, and professed their adherence to the true faith. The formula subscribed åt Arminium was sent to all the provinces of the empire, with an order from Constantius to all the bishops to sign it, under pain of banishment. This caused great trouble in the Church, and a kind of persecution, and many bishops in the east signed the formula.
About this time great violences were committed at Alexandria by the Arians. Numbers of people were trampled to death in the streets by the soldiers, and others slain by their darts. St. Athanasius was forced to leave the place, and one George,man Arian, a brutish and cruel man, was placed in the patriarchal chair. He renewed the scenes of bloodshed and violence; but two years after, by a just judgment, was massacred by the pagans for this cruelty.
Constantius the emperor died in 361, and with his death ceased for a while the Arian persecution, What has been said of this prince sufficiently shows that he was “a great sword,” according to the expression of the Apocalypse, in the hands of the Arians. In 364, Valens was invested with the empire of the east by his brother Valentinian, who kept to himself the west. This last prince was a true Catholic; but Valens was inclined to Arianism, and openly declared in favour of it in 367, when he was baptized by Eudoxus, the Arian bishop of Constantinople, who made him then swear, that he would always persist in his belief, and persecute those of a contrary persuasion. In conformity to his oath, this emperor became another great sword in defence of the Arians. The devil not being able, as Paulus Orosius observes, lib. vii. c. 29, to persecute the Church any longer by pagan emperors who no longer existed, found means to do it by the hands of Christian emperors. Valens began his persecution against the orthodox, by ordering the governors of the provinces to banish those bishops, who had been deposed by Constantius, and had recovered their sees under Julian. St. Athanasius among the rest underwent the penalty, and this was the fourth or fifth time he had been driven from his church. The Catholics at Constantinople suffered grcatly; they were insulted, wounded, and imprisoned, and some of them even put to death. To get a stop put to these violences, they sent a deputation of fourscore ecclesiastics to Valens at Nicomedia. These, instead of obtaining any redress from the inhuman emperor, were ordered to be put on board a vessel, and the vessel, when out at sea, to be set on fire. The barbarous order was executed, and they all perished. Persecution was openly carried on in different parts of the east. As the monks in the deserts were known to distinguish themselves in supporting the true religion, Valens issued out an order that they should be compelled to bear arms, and the officers who were sent upon the commission, massacred a great number of them.