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mysteries of the Christian faith, and a verbal defect might introduce into the Latin theology a long train of error or perplexity.74 But as the western provincials had the good fortune of deriving their religion from an orthodox source, they preserved with steadiness the doctrine which they had accepted with docility; and when the Arian pestilence approached their frontiers, they were supplied with the seasonable preservative of the Homoousion by the paternal care of the Roman pontiff. Their sentiments and their temper were Rimini. displayed in the memorable synod of Rimini, which surpassed in numbers the council of Nice, since it was composed of above four hundred bishops of Italy, Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Illyricum. From the first debates it appeared that only fourscore prelates adhered to the party, though they affected to anathematize the name and memory of Arius. But this inferiority was compensated by the advantages of skill, of experience, and of discipline; and the minority was conducted by Valens and Ursacius, two bishops of Illyricum, who had spent their lives in the intrigues of courts and councils, and who had been trained under"the Eusebian banner in the religious wars of the East By their arguments and negotiations they embarrassed, they confounded, they at last deceived the honest simplicity of the Latin bishops, who suffered the palladium of the faith to be extorted from their hands by fraud and importunity, rather than by open violence. The council of Rimini was not allowed to separate till the members had imprudently subscribed a captious creed, in which some expressions, susceptible of an heretical sense, were inserted in the room of the Homoousion. It was on this occasion that, according to Jerom, the world was surprised to find itself Ariaa" But the bishops of the Latin provinces had no sooner reached their respective dioceses than they discovered their mistake, and repented of their weakness. The ignominious capitulation was rejected with disdain and abhorrence, and the Homoousian standard, which had been shaken but not overthrown, was more firmly replanted in all the churches of the West.76
Such was the rise and progress, and such were the natural revolutions, of those theological disputes which disturbed the peace of
"The preference which the fourth council of the Lateran at length gave to a numerical rather than a gencricul unity (Bee Petav. torn. ii. 1. iv. c. 13, p. 424) was favoured by the Latin language: rfiat seems to excite the idea of substance, trinitas of qualities.
7* Ingemuit totus orbis, et Arianum se esse miratus est. Hieronym. adv. Lucifer, torn. i. p. 145. [Tom. ii. p. 191, ed. Vallars.]
78 The story of the council of Rimini is very elegantly told by Sulpicius Severus (Hist. Sacra, 1. ii. p. 419-430, edit. Lugd. Bat. 1647), and by Jcrom, in his dialogue against the Luciferians. The design of the latter is to apologise for the conduct of the Latin bishops, who were deceived, and who repented.
A.D. 324. INDIFFERENCE, AND ZEAL, OF CONSTANTINE. 63
Christianity under the reigns of Constantine and of his sons. But
as those princes presumed to extend their despotism over
the faith, as well as over the lives and fortunes, of their u?"empero«
subjects, the weight of their suffrage sometimes inclined ^,^
the ecclesiastical balance: and the prerogatives of the King
of Heaven were settled, or changed, or modified, in the cabinet of an
The unhappy spirit of discord which pervaded the provinces of the East interrupted the triumph of Constantine; but the indiir<.rence emperor continued for some time to view with cool and on^)nstan" careless indifference the object of the dispute. As he was **324yet ignorant of the difficulty of appeasing the quarrels of theologians, he addressed to the contending parties, to Alexander and to Arius, a moderating epistle;17 which may be ascribed with far greater reason to the untutored sense of a soldier and statesman than to the dictates of any of his episcopal counsellors. He attributes the origin of the whole controversy to a trifling and subtle question concerning an incomprehensible point of the law, which was foolishly asked by the bishop, and imprudently resolved by the presbyter. He laments that the Christian people, who had the same God, the same religion, and the same worship, should be divided by such inconsiderable distinctions; and he seriously recommends to the clergy of Alexandria the example of the Greek philosophers, who could maintain their arguments without losing their temper, and assert their freedom without violating their friendship. The indifference and contempt of the sovereign would have been, perhaps, the most effectual method of silencing the dispute, if the popular current had been less rapid and impetuous, and if Constantine himself, in the midst of faction and fanaticism, could have preserved the calm possession of his own mind. But his ecclesiastical ministers soon contrived to seduce the impartiality of the magistrate, and to awaken the zeal of the His ^ proselyte. He was provoked by the insults which had AD-32ibeen offered to his statues; he was alarmed by the real as well as the imaginary magnitude of the spreading mischief; and he extinguished the hope of peace and toleration, from the moment that he assembled three hundred bishops within the walls of the same palace. The presence of the monarch swelled the importance of the debate; his attention multiplied the arguments; and he exposed his person with a patient intrepidity which animated the valour of the combatants. Notwithstanding the applause which has been bestowed on the eloquence and sagacity of Constantine,78 a Roman general, whose religion might be still a subject of doubt, and whose mind had not been enlightened either by study or by inspiration, was indifferently qualified to discuss, in the Greek language, a metaphysical question, or an article of faith. But the credit of his favourite Osius, who appears to have presided in the council of Nice, might dispose the emperor in favour of the orthodox party; and a well-timed insinuation, that the same Eusebius of Nicomedia, who now protected the heretic, had lately assisted the tyrant,79 might exasperate him against their adversaries. The Nicene creed was ratified by Constantine; and his firm declaration, that those who resisted the divine judgment of the synod must prepare themselves for an immediate exile, annihilated the murmurs of a feeble opposition; which, from seventeen, was almost instantly reduced to two, protesting bishops. Eusebius of C«sarea yielded a reluctant and ambiguous consent to the Homoousion ;H0 and the wavering conduct of the Nicomedian Eusebius served only to delay about three months his disgrace and exile.81
77 Eusebius, in Vit. Constant. 1. ii. c. 64-72. The principles of toleration and religious indifference contained in this epistle have given great offenco to Baronius, Tillemont, &c, who suppose that the emperor had some evil counsellor, either Satan or Eusebius, at his elbow. See Jortin's Kemarks, torn. ii. p. 183."
* Heinichen (Excursus xi.) quotes with English clergyman venture to express his
approbation the term "golden words," regret that "the fine gold so soon became
applied by Ziegler to this moderate and dim" in the Christian church ?—M. tolerant letter of Constantine. May an
The impious Arius was banished into one of the remote cutes tho provinces of Illyricum; his person and disciples were
branded, by law, with the odious name of Porphyrians; his writings were condemned to the flames, and a capital punishment was denounced against those in whose possession they should be found. The emperor had now imbibed the spirit of controversy, and the angry sarcastic style of his edicts was designed to inspire his subjects with the hatred which he had conceived against the enemies of Christ.82
But, as if the conduct of the emperor had been.guided by passion A.D. 328-337. AND THE ORTHODOX PARTY. 65
78 Eusebius in Vit. Constantin. 1. iii. c. 13.
78 Theodoret has preserved (1. i. c. 20) an epistle from Constantine to the people of Nicomedia, in which the monarch declares himself the public accuser of one of his subjects; he styles Eusebius i r5t vvptmint ifurririf rtinpierm; and complains of his hostile behaviour during the civil war.
80 See in Socrates (1. i. c. 8), or rather in Theodoret (1. i. c. 12), an original letter of EusebiuB of Cffisarea, in which he attempts to justify his subscribing the Homoousion. The character of Eusebius has always been a problem; but those who have read the second critical epistle of Le Clerc (Ars Critica, torn. iii. p. 30-69) must entertain a very unfavourable opinion of the orthodoxy and sincerity of the bishop of Ca=sarea.
"Athanasius, torn. i. p. 727 [torn. i. p. 247, ed. Bened.]; Philostorgius, 1. i. c. 10; and Godefroy's Commentary, p. 41.
"Socrates, 1. i. c. 9. In his circular letters, which were addressed to the several cities, Constantine employed against the heretics the arms of ridicule and comic raillery.
instead of principle, three years from the council of Nice were scarcely elapsed before he discovered some symptoms of mercy, ^a the and even of indulgence, towards the proscribed sect, which J^J** was secretly protected by his favourite sister. The exiles *■"■328-337were recalled; and Eusebius, who gradually resumed his influence over the mind of Constantine, was restored to the episcopal throne, from which he had been ignomiuiously degraded. Arius himself was treated by the whole court with the respect which would have been due to an innocent and oppressed man. His faith was approved by the synod of Jerusalem; and the emperor seemed impatient to repair his injustice, by issuing an absolute command that he should be solemnly admitted to the communion in the cathedral of Constantinople. On the same day which had been fixed for the triumph of Arius, he expired; and the strange and horrid circumstances of his death might excite a suspicion that the orthodox saints had contributed more efficaciously than by their prayers to deliver the church from the most formidable of her enemies.83 The three principal leaders of the catholics, Athanasius of Alexandria, Eustathius of Antioch, and Paul of Constantinople, were deposed on various accusations, by the sentence of numerous councils; and were afterwards banished into distant provinces by the first of the Christian emperors, who, in the last moments of his life, received the rites of baptism from the Arian bishop of Nicomedia. The ecclesiastical government of Constantine cannot be justified from the reproach of levity and weakness. But the credulous monarch, unskilled in the stratagems of theological warfare, might be deceived by the modest and specious professions of the heretics, whose sentiments he never perfectly understood; and while he protected Arius, and persecuted Athanasius, he still considered the council of Nice as the bulwark of the Christian faith, and the peculiar glory of his own reign.84
The sons of Constantine must have been admitted from their childhood into the rank of catechumens, but they imitated, in constanthe delay of their baptism, the example of their father. U^axtm Like him, they presumed to pronounce their judgment on A-D' 33,'3lilmysteries into which they had never been regularly initiated :85 and the fate of the Trinitarian controversy depended, in a great measure, on the sentiments of Constantius, who inherited the provinces of the East, and acquired the possession of the whole empire. The Arian presbyter or bishop, who had secreted for his use the testament of the deceased emperor, improved the fortunate occasion which had introduced him to the familiarity of a prince whose public counsels were always swayed by his domestic favourites. The eunuchs and slaves diffused the spiritual poison through the palace, and the dangerous infection was communicated by the female attendants to the guards, and by the empress to her unsuspicious husband.sc The partiality which Constantius always expressed towards the Eusebian faction was insensibly fortified by the dexterous management of their leaders; and his victory over the tyrant Magnentius increased his inclination, as well as ability, to employ the arms of power in the cause of Arianism. While the two armies were engaged in the plains of Murea, and the fate of the two rivals depended on the chance of war, the son of Constantine passed the anxious moments in a church of the martyrs, under the walls of the city. His spiritual comforter, Valens, the Arian bishop of the diocese, employed the most artful precautions to obtain such early intelligence as might secure either his favour or his escape. A secret chain of swift and trusty messengers informed him of the vicissitudes of the battle; and while the courtiers stood trembling round their affrighted master, Valens assured him that the Gallic legions gave way; and insinuated, with some presence of mind, that the glorious event had been revealed to him by an angel. The grateful emperor ascribed his success to the merits and intercession of the bishop of Mursa, whose faith had deserved the public and miraculous approbation of Heaven.87 The Arians, who considered as their own the victory of Constantius, preferred his glory to that of his father.88 Cyril, bishop
63 We derive the original story from Athanaaius (torn. i. p. 670), who expresses some reluctiuice to stigmatise the memory of the dead. He might exaggerate; but the perpetual commerce of Alexandria and Constantinople would have rendered it dangerous to invent. Those who press the literal narrative of the death of Ariua (his bowels suddenly burst out in a privy) must make their option between poison and miracle.
'* The change in the sentiments, or at least in the conduct, of Constantine, may be traced in Eusebius (in Vit. Constant. 1. iii. c. 23, 1. iv. c. 41), Socrates (1. i. c. 23-39), Sozomcn (1. ii. c. 16-34), Theodoret (1. i. c. 14-34), and Philostorgius (1. ii. c. 1-17). But the first of these writers Wiis too near the scene of action, and the others were too remote from it. It is singular enough that tho important task of continuing the history of the church should have been left for two laymen and a heretic.
VOL. 111. F
"Quia etiam turn catechumenus sacramentum fidei merito videretur potuisse nescire. Sulp. Sever. Hist. Sacra, 1. ii. p. 410.
86 Socrates, 1. ii. c. 2. Sozoraen, 1. iii. c. 18. Athanas. torn. i. p. 813, 834 [torn. i. p. 289, ed. Bened. Patav. 1777]. He observes that the eunuchs nre the natural enemies of the Son. Compare Dr. Jortin's Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol. iv. p. 3, with a certain genealogy in Cmidklc (ch. iv.), which ends with one of the first companions of Christopher Columbus.
87 Sulpicius Severus in Hist. Sacra, 1. ii. p. 405, 406.
88 Cyril (apud Baron, A.d. 353, N°. 2G) expressly observes that in the reign of Constantine the cross had been found in the bowels of the earth; but that it had appeared, in the reign of Constantius, in the midst of the heavens. This opposition evidently proves that Cyril was ignorant of the stupendous miracle to which the eonversion of Constantine is attributed; and this ignorance is the more surprising, since it was no more than twelve years after his death that Cyril was consecrated bishop of Jerusalem by the immediate successor of Eusebius of Cccsarea. See Tillemont, Me'm. Eccles. torn. viii. p. 715.