Note 5. The Orthodoxy of the Body of the Faithful during the Supremacy of Arianism

(Vide supra, p. 358.) [Note 1]

{445} THE episcopate, whose action was so prompt and concordant at Nicæa on the rise of Arianism, did not, as a class or order of men, play a good part in the troubles consequent upon the Council; and the laity did. The Catholic people, in the length and breadth of Christendom, were the obstinate champions of Catholic truth, and the bishops were not. Of course there were great and illustrious exceptions; first, Athanasius, Hilary, the Latin Eusebius, and Phœbadius; and after them, Basil, the two Gregories, and Ambrose; there are others, too, who suffered, if they did nothing else, as Eustathius, Paulus, Paulinus, and Dionysius; and the Egyptian bishops, whose weight was small in the Church in proportion to the great power of their Patriarch. And, on the other hand, as I shall say presently, there were exceptions to the Christian heroism of the laity, especially in some of the great towns. And again, in speaking of the laity, I speak inclusively of their parish-priests (so to call them), at least in many places; but on the whole, taking a wide view of the history, we are obliged to say that the governing body of the Church came short, and the governed were pre-eminent in faith, zeal, courage, and constancy.

This is a very remarkable fact: but there is a moral in it. Perhaps it was permitted, in order to impress upon the Church at that very time passing out of her state of persecution to {446} her long temporal ascendancy, the great evangelical lesson, that, not the wise and powerful, but the obscure, the unlearned, and the weak constitute her real strength. It was mainly by the faithful people that Paganism was overthrown; it was by the faithful people, under the lead of Athanasius and the Egyptian bishops, and in some places supported by their Bishops or priests, that the worst of heresies was withstood and stamped out of the sacred territory.

The contrast stands as follows:—


1. A.D. 325. The great Council of Nicæa of 318 Bishops, chiefly from the eastern provinces of Christendom, under the presidency of Hosius of Cordova. It was convoked against Arianism, which it once for all anathematized; and it inserted the formula of the "Consubstantial" into the Creed, with the view of establishing the fundamental dogma which Arianism impugned. It is the first Œcumenical Council, and recognized at the time its own authority as the voice of the infallible Church. It is so received by the orbis terrarum at this day.

2. A.D. 326. St. Athanasius, the great champion of the Homoüsion, was elected Bishop of Alexandria.

3. A.D. 334, 335. The Synods of Cæsarea and Tyre (sixty Bishops) against Athanasius, who was therein accused and formally condemned of rebellion, sedition, and ecclesiastical tyranny; of murder, sacrilege, and magic; deposed from his See, forbidden to set foot in Alexandria for life, and banished to Gaul. Also, they received Arius into communion.

4. A.D. 341. Council of Rome of fifty Bishops, attended by the exiles from Thrace, Syria, &c., by Athanasius, &c., in which Athanasius was pronounced innocent.

5. A.D. 341. Great Council of the Dedication at Antioch, attended by ninety or a hundred Bishops. The council ratified the proceedings of the Councils of Cæsarea and Tyre, {447} and placed an Arian in the See of Athanasius. Then it proceeded to pass a dogmatic decree in reversal of the formula of the "Consubstantial." Four or five creeds, instead of the Nicene, were successively adopted by the assembled Fathers.

Three of these were circulated in the neighbourhood; but as they wished to send one to Rome, they directed a fourth to be drawn up. This, too, apparently failed.

6. A.D. 345. Council of the creed called Macrostich. This Creed suppressed, as did the third, the word "substance." The eastern Bishops sent this to the Bishops of France, who rejected it.

7. A.D. 347. The great Council of Sardica, attended by more than 300 Bishops. Before it commenced, a division between its members broke out on the question whether or not Athanasius should have a seat in it. In consequence, seventy-six retired to Philippopolis, on the Thracian side of Mount Hæmus, and there excommunicated the Pope and the Sardican Fathers. These seceders published a sixth confession of faith. The Synod of Sardica, including Bishops from Italy, Gaul, Africa, Egypt, Cyprus, and Palestine, confirmed the act of the Roman Council, and restored Athanasius and the other exiles to their Sees. The Synod of Philippopolis, on the contrary, sent letters to the civil magistrates of those cities, forbidding them to admit the exiles into them. The Imperial power took part with the Sardican Fathers, and Athanasius went back to Alexandria.

8. A.D. 351. The Bishops of the East met at Sirmium. The semi-Arian Bishops began to detach themselves from the Arians, and to form a separate party. Under pretence of putting down a kind of Sabellianism, they drew up a new creed, into which they introduced the language of some of the ante-Nicene writers on the subject of our Lord's divinity, and dropped the word "substance."

9. A.D. 353. The Council of Arles. The Pope sent to it {448} several Bishops as legates. The Fathers of the Council, including the Pope's legate, Vincent, subscribed the condemnation of Athanasius. Paulinus, Bishop of Treves, was nearly the only one who stood up for the Nicene faith and for Athanasius. He was accordingly banished into Phrygia, where he died.

10. A.D. 355. The Council of Milan, of more than 300 Bishops of the West. Nearly all of them subscribed the condemnation of Athanasius; whether they generally subscribed the heretical creed, which was brought forward, does not appear. The Pope's four legates remained firm, and St. Dionysius of Milan, who died an exile in Asia Minor. An Arian was put into his See. Saturninus, the Bishop of Arles, proceeded to hold a Council at Beziers; and its Fathers banished St. Hilary to Phrygia.

11. A.D. 357-9. The Arians and Semi-Arians successively drew up fresh creeds at Sirmium.

12. A.D. 357-8. Hosius' fall. "Constantius used such violence towards the old man, and confined him so straitly, that at last, broken by suffering, he was brought, though hardly, to hold communion with Valens and Ursacius [the Arian leaders], though he would not subscribe against Athanasius." Athan. Arian. Hist. 45.

13. A.D. 357-8. And Liberius. "The tragedy was not ended in the lapse of Hosius, but in the evil which befell Liberius, the Roman Pontiff, it became far more dreadful and mournful, considering that he was Bishop of so great a city, and of the whole Catholic Church, and that he had so bravely resisted Constantius two years previously. There is nothing, whether in the historians and holy fathers, or in his own letters, to prevent our coming to the conclusion, that Liberius communicated with the Arians, and confirmed the sentence passed by them against Athanasius; but he is not at all on that account to be called a heretic." Baron. Ann. 357, 38-45. Athanasius says: "Liberius, after he had been {449} in banishment for two years, gave way, and from fear of threatened death was induced to subscribe. Arian. Hist. § 41. St. Jerome says: "Liberius, tædio victus exilii, et in hæreticam pravitatem subscribens, Romam quasi victor intraverat." Chron. ed. Val. p. 797.

14. A.D. 359. The great Councils of Seleucia and Ariminum, being one bi-partite Council, representing the East and West respectively. At Seleucia there were 150 Bishops, of which only the twelve or thirteen from Egypt were champions of the Nicene "Consubstantial." At Ariminum there were as many as 400 Bishops, who, worn out by the artifice of long delay on the part of the Arians, abandoned the "Consubstantial," and subscribed the ambiguous formula which the heretics had substituted for it.

15. About A.D. 360, St. Hilary says: "I am not speaking of things foreign to my knowledge; I am not writing about what I am ignorant of; I have heard and I have seen the shortcomings of persons who are round about me, not of laymen, but of Bishops. For, excepting the Bishop Eleusius and a few with him, for the most part the ten Asian provinces, within whose boundaries I am situate, are truly ignorant of God." De Syn. 63. It is observable, that even Eleusius, who is here spoken of as somewhat better than the rest, was a Semi-Arian, according to Socrates, and even a persecutor of Catholics at Constantinople; and, according to Sozomen, one of those who were active in causing Pope Liberius to give up the Nicene formula of the "Consubstantial." By the ten Asian provinces is meant the east and south provinces of Asia Minor, pretty nearly as cut off by a line passing from Cyzicus to Seleucia through Synnada.

16. A.D. 360. St. Gregory Nazianzen says, about this date: "Surely the pastors have done foolishly; for, excepting a very few, who either on account of their insignificance were passed over, or who by reason of their virtue resisted, and who were to be left as a seed and root for the springing {450} up again and revival of Israel by the influences of the Spirit, all temporized, only differing from each other in this, that some succumbed earlier, and others later; some were foremost champions and leaders in the impiety, and others joined the second rank of the battle, being overcome by fear, or by interest, or by flattery, or, what was the most excusable, by their own ignorance." Orat. xxi. 24.

17. A.D. 361. About this time, St. Jerome says: "Nearly all the churches in the whole world, under the pretence of peace and of the emperor, are polluted with the communion of the Arians." Chron. Of the same date, that is, upon the Council of Ariminum, are his famous words, "Ingemuit totus orbis et se esse Arianum miratus est." In Lucif. 19. "The Catholics of Christendom were strangely surprised to find that the Council had made Arians of them."

18. A.D. 362. State of the Church of Antioch at this time. There were four Bishops or communions of Antioch; first, the old succession and communion, which had possession before the Arian troubles; secondly, the Arian succession, which had lately conformed to orthodoxy in the person of Meletius; thirdly, the new Latin succession, lately created by Lucifer, whom some have thought the Pope's legate there; and, fourthly, the new Arian succession, which was started upon the recantation of Meletius. At length, as Arianism was brought under, the evil reduced itself to two Episcopal Successions, that of Meletius and the Latin, which went on for many years, the West and Egypt holding communion with the latter, and the East with the former.

19. St. Hilary speaks of the series of ecclesiastical Councils of that time in the following well-known passage: "Since the Nicene Council, we have done nothing but write the Creed. While we fight about words, inquire about novelties, take advantage of ambiguities, criticize authors, fight on party questions, have difficulties in agreeing, and prepare to anathematize each other, there is scarce a man who belongs to {451} Christ. Take, for instance, last year's Creed, what alteration is there not in it already? First, we have the Creed, which bids us not to use the Nicene 'consubstantial;' then comes another, which decrees and preaches it; next, the third, excuses the word 'substance,' as adopted by the Fathers in their simplicity; lastly, the fourth, which instead of excusing, condemns. We determine creeds by the year or by the month, we change our own determinations, we prohibit our changes, we anathematize our prohibitions. Thus, we either condemn others in our own persons, or ourselves in the instance of others, and while we bite and devour one another, are like to be consumed one of another." Ad Const. ii. 4, 5.

20. A.D. 382. St. Gregory writes: "If I must speak the truth, I feel disposed to shun every conference of Bishops: for never saw I Synod brought to a happy issue, and remedying, and not rather aggravating, existing evils. For rivalry and ambition are stronger than reason,—do not think me extravagant for saying so,—and a mediator is more likely to incur some imputation himself than to clear up the imputations which others lie under."—Ep. 129.


Coming to the opposite side of the contrast, I observe that there were great efforts made on the part of the Arians to render their heresy popular. Arius himself, according to the Arian Philostorgius, "wrote songs for the sea, and for the mill, and for the road, and then set them to suitable music." [Note 2] Hist. ii. 2. Alexander speaks of the "running about" of the Arian women, Theod. Hist. i. 4, and of the buffoonery of their men. Socrates says that "in the Imperial court, the officers of the bed-chamber held disputes with the {452} women, and in the city, in every house, there was a war of dialectics," ii. 2. Especially at Constantinople there were, as Gregory says, "of Jezebels as thick a crop as of hemlock in a field," Orat. 35, 3; and he himself suffered from the popular violence there. At Alexandria the Arian women are described by Athanasius as "running up and down like Bacchanals and furies," and as "passing that day in grief on which they could do no harm." Hist. Arian. 59.

The controversy was introduced in ridicule into the heathen theatres, Euseb. v. Const. ii. 6. Socr. i. 6. "Men of yesterday," says Gregory Nyssen, "mere mechanics, offhand dogmatists in theology, servants too and slaves that have been scourged, run-aways from servile work, and philosophical about things incomprehensible. Of such the city is full; its entrances, forums, squares, thoroughfares; the clothes-vendors, the money-lenders, the victuallers. Ask about pence, and they will discuss the generate and ingenerate," &c., &c., tom. ii. p. 898. Socrates, too, says that the heresy "ravaged provinces and cities;" and Theodoret that, "quarrels took place in every city and village concerning the divine dogma, the people looking on, and taking sides." Hist. i. 6.

In spite of these attempts, however, on the part of the Arians, still, viewing Christendom as a whole, we shall find that the Catholic populations sided with Athanasius; and the fierce disputes above described evidenced the zeal of the orthodox rather than the strength of the heretical party. This will appear in the following extracts:—

1. ALEXANDRIA. "We suppose," says Athanasius, "you are not ignorant what outrages they [the Arian Bishops] committed at Alexandria, for they are reported every where. They attacked the holy virgins and brethren with naked swords; they beat with scourges their persons, esteemed honourable in God's sight, so that their feet were lamed by the stripes, whose souls were whole and sound in purity and all good works." Athan. Ap. c. Arian. 15. {453}

"Accordingly Constantius writes letters, and commences a persecution against all. Gathering together a multitude of herdsmen and shepherds, and dissolute youths belonging to the town, armed with swords and clubs, they attacked in a body the Church of Quirinus: and some they slew, some they trampled under foot, others they beat with stripes and cast into prison or banished. They haled away many women also, and dragged them openly into the court, and insulted them, dragging them by the hair. Some they proscribed; from some they took away their bread, for no other reason but that they might be induced to join the Arians, and receive Gregory [the Arian Bishop], who had been sent by the Emperor." Athan. Hist. Arian. § 10.

"On the week that succeeded the holy Pentecost, when the people after their fast, had gone out to the cemetery to pray, because that all refused communion with George [the Arian Bishop], the commander, Sebastian, straightway with a multitude of soldiers proceeded to attack the people, though it was the Lord's day; and finding a few praying (for the greater part had already retired on account of the lateness of the hour), having lighted a pile, he placed certain virgins near the fire, and endeavoured to force them to say that they were of the Arian faith. And having seized on forty men, he cut some fresh twigs of the palm-tree, with the thorns upon them, and scourged them on the back so severely that some of them were for a long time under medical treatment, on account of the thorns which had entered their flesh, and others, unable to bear up under their sufferings, died. All those whom they had taken, both the men and the virgins, they sent away into banishment to the great Oasis. Moreover, they immediately banished out of Egypt and Libya the following Bishops [sixteen], and the presbyters, Hierax and Dioscorus; some of them died on the way, others in the place of their banishment. They caused also more than thirty Bishops to take to flight." Apol. de Fug. 7. {454}

2. EGYPT. "The Emperor Valens having issued an edict commanding that the orthodox should be expelled both from Alexandria and the rest of Egypt, depopulation and ruin to an immense extent immediately followed; some were dragged before the tribunals, others cast into prison, and many tortured in various ways; all sorts of punishment being inflicted upon persons who aimed only at peace and quiet." Socr. Hist. iv. 24.

3. THE MONKS (1.) of Egypt. "Antony left the solitude of the desert to go about every part of the city [Alexandria], warning the inhabitants that the Arians were opposing the truth, and that the doctrines of the Apostles were preached only by Athanasius." Theod. Hist. iv. 27.

"Lucius, the Arian, with a considerable body of troops, proceeded to the monasteries of Egypt, where he in person assailed the assemblage of holy men with greater fury than the ruthless soldiery. When these excellent persons remained unmoved by all the violence, in despair he advised the military chief to send the fathers of the monks, the Egyptian Macarius and his namesake of Alexandria, into exile." Socr. iv. 24.

(2.) Of Constantinople. "Isaac, on seeing the emperor depart at the head of his army, exclaimed, 'You who have declared war against God cannot gain His aid. Cease from fighting against Him, and He will terminate the war. Restore the pastors to their flocks, and then you will obtain a bloodless victory.'" Theod. iv.

(3.) Of Syria, &c. "That these heretical doctrines [Apollinarian and Eunomian] did not finally become predominant is mainly to be attributed to the zeal of the monks of this period; for all the monks of Syria, Cappadocia, and the neighbouring provinces were sincerely attached to the Nicene faith. The same fate awaited them which had been experienced by the Arians; for they incurred the full weight {455} of the popular odium and aversion, when it was observed that their sentiments were regarded with suspicion by the monks." Sozom. vi. 27.

(4.) Of Capadocia. "Gregory, the father of Gregory Theologus, otherwise a most excellent man, and a zealous defender of the true and Catholic religion, not being on his guard against the artifices of the Arians, such was his simplicity, received with kindness certain men who were contaminated with the poison, and subscribed an impious proposition of theirs. This moved the monks to such indignation, that they withdrew forthwith from his communion, and took with them, after their example, a considerable part of his flock." Ed. Bened. Monit. in Greg. Naz. Orat. 6.

4. ANTIOCH. "Whereas he (the Bishop Leontius) took part in the blasphemy of Arius, he made a point of concealing this disease, partly for fear of the multitude, partly for the menaces of Constantius; so those who followed the Apostolical dogmas gained from him neither patronage nor ordination, but those who held Arianism were allowed the fullest liberty of speech, and were placed in the ranks of the sacred ministry. But Flavian and Diodorus, who had embraced the ascetical life, and maintained the Apostolical dogmas, openly withstood Leontius's machinations against religious doctrine. They threatened that they would retire from the communion of his Church, and would go to the West, and reveal his intrigues. Though they were not as yet in the sacred ministry, but were in the ranks of the laity, night and day they used to excite all the people to zeal for religion. They were the first to divide the singers into two choirs, and to teach them to sing in alternate parts the strains of David. They too, assembling the devout at the shrines of the martyrs, passed the whole night there in hymns to God. These things Leontius seeing, did not think it safe to hinder them, for he saw that the multitude was especially well affected towards those excellent persons. Nothing, however, could {456} persuade Leontius to correct his wickedness. It follows, that among the clergy were many who were infected with the heresy: but the mass of the people were champions of orthodoxy." Theodor. Hist. ii. 24.

5. EDESSA. "There is in that city a magnificent church, dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle, wherein, on account of the sanctity of the place, religious assemblies are continually held. The Emperor Valens wished to inspect this edifice; when, having learned that all who usually congregated there were enemies to the heresy which he favoured, he is said to have struck the prefect with his own hand, because he had neglected to expel them thence. The prefect, to prevent the slaughter of so great a number of persons, privately warned them against resorting thither. But his admonitions and menaces were alike unheeded; for on the following day they all crowded to the church. When the prefect was going towards it with a large military force, a poor woman leading her own little child by the hand, hurried hastily by on her way to the church, breaking through the ranks of the soldiery. The prefect, irritated at this, ordered her to be brought to him, and thus addressed her: 'Wretched woman, whither are you running in so disorderly a manner?' She replied, 'To the same place that others are hastening.' 'Have you not heard,' said he, 'that the prefect is about to put to death all that shall be found there?' 'Yes,' said the woman, 'and therefore I hasten, that I may be found there.' 'And whither are you dragging that little child?' said the prefect. The woman answered, 'That he also may be vouchsafed the honour of martyrdom.' The prefect went back and informed the Emperor that all were ready to die in behalf of their own faith; and added that it would be preposterous to destroy so many persons at one time, and thus succeeded in restraining the Emperor's wrath." Socr. iv. 18. "Thus was the Christian faith confessed by the whole city of Edessa." Sozom. vi. 18. {457}

6. SAMOSATA. "The Arians, having deprived this exemplary flock of their shepherd, elected in his place an individual with whom none of the inhabitants of the city, whether poor or rich, servants or mechanics, husbandmen or gardeners, men or women, young or old, would hold communion. He was left quite alone; no one even calling to see him, or exchanging a word with him. It is, however, said that his disposition was extremely gentle; and this is proved by what I am about to relate. One day, when he went to bathe in the public baths, the attendants closed the doors; but he ordered the doors to be thrown open, that the people might be admitted to bathe with himself. Perceiving that they remained in a standing posture before him, imagining that great deference towards himself was the cause of this conduct, he arose and left the bath. These people believed that the water had been contaminated by his heresy, and ordered it to be let out, and fresh water to be supplied. When he heard of this circumstance, he left the city, thinking that he ought no longer to remain in a place where he was the object of public aversion and hatred. Upon this retirement of Eunomius, Lucius was elected as his successor by the Arians. Some young persons were amusing themselves with playing at ball in the market-place; Lucius was passing by at the time, and the ball happened to fall beneath the feet of the ass on which he was mounted. The youths uttered loud exclamations, believing that the ball was contaminated. They lighted a fire, and hurled the ball through it, believing that by this process the ball would be purified. Although this was only a childish deed, and although it exhibits the remains of ancient superstition, yet it is sufficient to show the odium which the Arian faction had incurred in this city. Lucius was far from imitating the mildness of Eunomius, and he persuaded the heads of the government to exile most of the clergy." Theodor. iv. i5.

7. OSRHOENE. "Arianism met with similar opposition at {458} the same period in Osrhoëne and Cappadocia. Basil, Bishop of Cæsarea, and Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus, were held in high admiration and esteem throughout these regions." Sozom. vi. 21.

8. CAPPADOCIA. "Valens, in passing through Cappadocia, did all in his power to injure the orthodox, and to deliver up the churches to the Arians. He thought to accomplish his designs more easily on account of a dispute which was then pending between Basil and Eusebius, who governed the Church of Cæsarea. This dissension had been the cause of Basil's departing to Pontus. The people, and some of the most powerful and wisest men of the city, began to regard Eusebius with suspicion, and to meditate a secession from his communion. The emperor and the Arian Bishops regarded the absence of Basil and the hatred of the people towards Eusebius, as circumstances that would tend greatly to the success of their designs. But their expectations were utterly frustrated. On the first intelligence of the intention of the emperor to pass through Cappadocia, Basil returned to Cæsarea, where he effected a reconciliation with Eusebius. The projects of Valens were thus defeated, and he returned with his Bishops." Sozom. vi. 15.

9. PONTUS. "It is said that when Eulalius, Bishop of Amasia in Pontus, returned from exile, he found that his Church had passed into the hands of an Arian, and that scarcely fifty inhabitants of the city had submitted to the control of their new bishop." Sozom. vii. 2.

10. ARMENIA. "That company of Arians, who came with Eustathius to Nicopolis, had promised that they would bring over this city to compliance with the commands of the Imperial vicar. This city had great ecclesiastical importance, both because it was the metropolis of Armenia, and because it had been ennobled by the blood of martyrs, and governed hitherto by Bishops of great reputation, and thus, as Basil calls it, was the nurse of religion and the metropolis of sound {459} doctrine. Fronto, one of the city presbyters, who had hitherto shown himself as a champion of the truth, through ambition gave himself up to the enemies of Christ, and purchased the bishoprick of the Arians at the price of renouncing the Catholic faith. This wicked proceeding of Eustathius and the Arians brought a new glory instead of evil to the Nicopolitans, since it gave them an opportunity of defending the faith. Fronto, indeed, the Arians consecrated, but there was a remarkable unanimity of clergy and people in rejecting him. Scarcely one or two clerks sided with him; on the contrary, he became the execration of all Armenia." Vita S. Basil., Bened. pp. clvii, clviii.

11. NICOMEDIA. "Eighty pious clergy proceeded to Nicomedia, and there presented to the emperor a supplicatory petition complaining of the ill-usage to which they had been subjected. Valens, dissembling his displeasure in their presence, gave Modestus, the prefect, a secret order to apprehend these persons and to put them to death. The prefect, fearing he should excite the populace to a seditious movement against himself, if he attempted the public execution of so many, pretended to send them away into exile," &c. Socr. iv. 16.

12. CAPPADOCIA. St. Basil says, about the year 372: "Religious people keep silence, but every blaspheming tongue is let loose. Sacred things are profaned; those of the laity who are sound in faith avoid the places of worship as schools of impiety, and raise their hands in solitudes, with groans and tears to the Lord in heaven." Ep. 92. Four years after he writes: "Matters have come to this pass: the people have left their houses of prayer, and assemble in deserts,—a pitiable sight; women and children, old men, and men otherwise infirm, wretchedly faring in the open air, amid the most profuse rains and snow-storms and winds and frosts of winter; and again in summer under a scorching sun. To this they submit, because they will have no part in the {460} wicked Arian leaven." Ep. 242. Again: "Only one offence is now vigorously punished,—an accurate observance of our fathers' traditions. For this cause the pious are driven from their countries, and transported into deserts. The people are in lamentation, in continual tears at home and abroad. There is a cry in the city, a cry in the country, in the roads, in the deserts. Joy and spiritual cheerfulness are no more; our feasts are turned into mourning; our houses of prayer are shut up, our altars deprived of the spiritual worship." Ep. 243.

13. PAPHLAGONIA, &c. "I thought," says Julian in one of his Epistles, "that the leaders of the Galilæans would feel more grateful to me than to my predecessor. For in his time they were in great numbers turned out of their homes, and persecuted, and imprisoned; moreover, multitudes of so-called heretics" [the Novatians who were with the Catholics against the Arians] "were slaughtered, so that in Samosata, Paphlagonia, Bithynia, and Galatia, and many other nations, villages were utterly sacked and destroyed." Ep. 52.

14. SCYTHIA. "There are in this country a great number of cities, of towns, and of fortresses. According to an ancient custom which still prevails, all the churches of the whole country are under the sway of one Bishop. Valens [the emperor] repaired to the Church, and strove to gain over the Bishop to the heresy of Arius; but this latter manfully opposed his arguments, and after a courageous defence of the Nicene doctrines, quitted the emperor, and proceeded to another church, whither he was followed by the people. Valens was extremely offended at being left alone in a church with his attendants, and in resentment condemned Vetranio [the Bishop] to banishment. Not long after, however, he recalled him, because, I believe, he apprehended insurrection." Sozom. vi. 21.

15. CONSTANTINOPLE, "Those who acknowledged the {461} doctrine of consubstantiality were not only expelled from the churches, but also from the cities. But although expulsion at first satisfied them [the Arians], they soon proceeded to the worse extremity of inducing compulsory communion with them, caring little for such a desecration of the churches. They resorted to all kinds of scourgings, a variety of tortures, and confiscation of property. Many were punished with exile, some died under the torture, and others were put to death while being driven from their country. These atrocities were exercised throughout all the eastern cities, but especially at Constantinople." Socr. ii. 27.

16. ILLYRIA. "The parents of Theodosius were Christians and were attached to the Nicene doctrine, hence he took pleasure in the ministration of Ascholius [Bishop of Thessalonica]. He also rejoiced at finding that the Arian heresy had not been received in Illyria." Sozom, vii. 4.

17. NEIGHBOURHOOD OF MACEDONIA. "Theodosius inquired concerning the religious sentiments which were prevalent in the other provinces, and ascertained that, as far as Macedonia, one form of belief was universally predominant," &c. Ibid.

18. ROME. "With respect to the doctrine no dissension arose either at Rome or in any other of the Western Churches; the people unanimously adhered to the form of belief established at Nicæa." Sozom. vi. 23.

"Liberius, returning to Rome, found the mind of the mass of men alienated from him, because he had so shamefully yielded to Constantius. And thus it came to pass, that those persons who had hitherto kept aloof from Felix [the rival Pope], and had avoided his communion in favour of Liberius, on hearing what had happened, left him for Felix, who raised the Catholic standard." Baron. Ann. 357. 56. He tells us besides (57), that the people would not even go to the public baths, lest they should bathe with the party of Liberius. {462}

19. MILAN. At the Council of Milan, Eusebius of Vercellæ, when it was proposed to draw up a declaration against Athanasius, "said that the Council ought first to be sure of the faith of the Bishops attending it, for he had found out that some of them were polluted with heresy. Accordingly he brought before the Fathers the Nicene Creed, and said he was willing to comply with all their demands, after they had subscribed that confession. Dionysius, Bishop of Milan, at once took up the paper and began to write his assent; but Valens [the Arian] violently pulled pen and paper out of his hands, crying out that such a course of proceeding was impossible. Whereupon, after much tumult, the question came before the people, and great was the distress of all of them; the faith of the Church was attacked by the Bishops. They then, dreading the judgment of the people, transfer their meeting from the church to the Imperial palace." Hilar. ad Const. i. 8.

Again: "As the feast of Easter approached, the empress sent to St. Ambrose to ask a church of him, where the Arians who attended her might meet together. He replied, that a Bishop could not give up the temple of God. The pretorian prefect came into the church, where St. Ambrose was attended by the people, and endeavoured to persuade him to yield up at least the Portian Basilica. The people were clamorous against the proposal; and the prefect retired to report how matters stood to the emperor. The Sunday following St. Ambrose was explaining the creed, when he was informed that the officers were hanging up the Imperial hangings in the Portian Basilica, and that upon this news the people were repairing thither. While he was offering up the holy sacrifice, a second message came that the people had seized an Arian priest as he was passing through the street. He despatched a number of his clergy to the spot to rescue the Arian from his danger. The court looked on this resistance of the people as seditious, and immediately laid considerable {463} fines upon the whole body of the tradesmen of the city. Several were thrown into prison. In three days' time these tradesmen were fined two hundred pounds weight of gold, and they said that they were ready to give as much again on condition that they might retain their faith. The prisons were filled with tradesmen; all the officers of the household, secretaries, agents of the emperor, and dependent officers who served under various counts, were kept within doors, and were forbidden to appear in public, under pretence that they should bear no part in sedition. Men of higher rank were menaced with severe consequences, unless the Basilica were surrendered ...

"Next morning the Basilica was surrounded by soldiers; but it was reported, that these soldiers had sent to the Emperor to tell him, that if he wished to come abroad he might, and that they would attend him, if he was going to the assembly of the Catholics: otherwise, that they would go to that which would be held by St. Ambrose. Indeed, the soldiers were all Catholics, as well as the citizens of Milan: there were so few heretics there, except a few officers of the emperor and some Goths.

"St. Ambrose was continuing his discourse, when he was told that the Emperor had withdrawn the soldiers from the Basilica, and that he had restored to the tradesmen the fines which he had exacted from them. This news gave joy to the people, who expressed their delight with applauses and thanksgivings; the soldiers themselves were eager to bring the news, throwing themselves on the altars, and kissing them in token of peace. "Fleury's Hist. xviii. 41, 42, Oxf. trans.

20. CHRISTENDOM GENERALLY. St. Hilary to Constantius: "Not only in words, but in tears, we beseech you to save the Catholic Churches from any longer continuance of these most grievous injuries, and of their present intolerable persecutions and insults, which moreover they are enduring, {464} monstrous as it is, from our brethren. Surely your clemency should listen to the voice of those who cry out so loudly, 'I am a Catholic, I have no wish to be a heretic.' It should seem equitable to your sanctity, most glorious Augustus, that they who fear the Lord God and His judgment should not be polluted and contaminated with execrable blasphemies, but should have liberty to follow those Bishops and prelates who both observe inviolate the laws of charity, and who desire a perpetual and sincere peace. It is impossible, it is unreasonable, to mix true and false, to confuse light and darkness, and bring into union, of whatever kind, night and day. Give permission to the populations to hear the teaching of the pastors whom they have wished, whom they fixed on, whom they have chosen, to attend their celebration of the divine mysteries, to offer prayers through them for your safety and prosperity." ad Const. i. 1, 2.

In drawing out this comparison between the conduct of the Catholic Bishops and that of their flocks during the Arian troubles, I must not be understood as intending any conclusion inconsistent with the infallibility of the Ecclesia docens, (that is, the Church when teaching) and with the claim of the Pope and the Bishops to constitute the Church in that aspect. I am led to give this caution, because, for the want of it, I was seriously misunderstood in some quarters on my first writing on the above subject in the Rambler Magazine of May, 1859. But on that occasion I was writing simply historically, not doctrinally, and, while it is historically true, it is in no sense doctrinally false, that a Pope, as a private doctor, and much more Bishops, when not teaching formally, may err, as we find they did err in the fourth century. Pope Liberius might sign a Eusebian formula at Sirmium, and the mass of Bishops at Ariminum or elsewhere, and yet they might, in spite of this error, be infallible in their ex cathedrâ decisions. {465}

The reason of my being misunderstood arose from two or three clauses or expressions which occurred in the course of my remarks, which I should not have used had I anticipated how they would be taken, and which I avail myself of this opportunity to explain and withdraw. First, I will quote the passage which bore a meaning which I certainly did not intend, and then I will note the phrases which seem to have given this meaning to it. It will be seen how little, when those phrases are withdrawn, the sense of the passage, as I intended it, is affected by the withdrawal. I said then:—"It is not a little remarkable, that, though, historically speaking, the fourth century is the age of doctors, illustrated, as it is, by the Saints Athanasius, Hilary, the two Gregories, Basil, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine, (and all those saints bishops also), except one, nevertheless in that very day the Divine tradition committed to the infallible Church was proclaimed and maintained far more by the faithful than by the Episcopate.

"Here of course I must explain:—in saying this then, undoubtedly I am not denying that the great body of the Bishops were in their internal belief orthodox; nor that there were numbers of clergy who stood by the laity and acted as their centres and guides; nor that the laity actually received their faith, in the first instance, from the Bishops and clergy; nor that some portions of the laity were ignorant, and other portions were at length corrupted by the Arian teachers, who got possession of the sees, and ordained an heretical clergy:—but I mean still, that in that time of immense confusion the divine dogma of our Lord's divinity was proclaimed, enforced, maintained, and (humanly speaking) preserved, far more by the "Ecclesia docta" than by the "Ecclesia docens;" that the body of the Episcopate was unfaithful to its commission, while the body of the laity was faithful to its baptism; that at one time the pope, at other times a patriarchal, metropolitan, or other great see, at {466} other times general councils, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth; while, on the other hand, it was the Christian people, who, under Providence, were the ecclesiastical strength of Athanasius, Hilary, Eusebius of Vercellæ, and other great solitary confessors, who would have failed without them ...

"On the one hand, then, I say, that there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the 'Ecclesia docens.' The body of Bishops failed in their confession of the faith. They spoke variously, one against another; there was nothing, after Nicæa, of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly sixty years ...

"We come secondly to the proofs of the fidelity of the laity, and the effectiveness of that fidelity, during that domination of Imperial heresy, to which the foregoing passages have related."

The three clauses which furnished matter of objection were these:—I said, (1), that "there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the 'Ecclesia docens;'" (2), that "the body of Bishops failed in their confession of the faith." (3), that "general councils, &c., said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth."

(1). That "there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the Ecclesia docens" is not true, if by saying so is meant that the Council of Nicæa held in 325 did not sufficiently define and promulgate for all times and all places the dogma of our Lord's divinity, and that the notoriety of that Council and the voices of its great supporters and maintainers, as Athanasius, Hilary, &c., did not bring home the dogma to the intelligence of the faithful in all parts of Christendom. But what I meant by "suspense" (I did not say "suspension," purposely,) was only this, that there was no authoritative utterance of the Church's infallible voice in matter of fact between the Nicene Council, A.D. 325, and the Council {467} of Constantinople, A.D. 381, or, in the words which I actually used, "there was nothing after Nicæa of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony for nearly sixty years." As writing before the Vatican Definition of 1870, I did not lay stress upon the Roman Councils under Popes Julius and Damasus [Note 3].

(2). That "the body of Bishops failed in their confession of the faith," p. 17. Here, if the word "body" is used in the sense of the Latin "corpus," as "corpus" is used in theological treatises, and as it doubtless would be translated for the benefit of readers ignorant of the English language, certainly this would be a heretical statement. But I meant nothing of the kind. I used it in the vague, familiar, genuine sense of which Johnson gives instances in his dictionary, as meaning "the great preponderance," or, "the mass" of Bishops, viewing them in the main or the gross, as a cumulus of individuals. Thus Hooker says, "Life and death have divided between them the whole body of mankind;" Clarendon, after speaking of the van of the king's army, says, "in the body was the king and the prince:" and Addison {468} speaks of "navigable rivers, which ran up into the body of Italy." In this sense it is true historically that the body of Bishops failed in their confession. Tillemont, quoting from St. Gregory Nazianzen, says, "La souscription (Arienne) etait une des dispositions necessaires pour entrer et pour se conserver dans l'episcopat. L'encre était toujours toute prête, et l'accusateur aussi. Ceux qui avaient paru invincibles jusques alors, céderent à cette tempête. Si leur esprit ne tomba pas dans l'heresie, leur main néanmoins y consentit ... Peu d'Evêques s'exemterent de ce malheur, n' y ayant eu que ceux que leur propre bassesse faisait negliger, ou que leur vertu fit resister genereusement, et que Dieu conserva afin qu'il restât encore quelque semence et quelque racine pour faire refleurir Israel." T. vi. p. 499. In St. Gregory's own words, [plen oligon agan, pantes tou kairou gegonasi; tosouton allelon dienenkontes, hoson tous men proteron, tous de husteron touto pathein]. Orat. xxi. 24. p. 401. Ed. Bened.

(3). That "general councils said what they should not have said, and did what obscured and compromised revealed truth." Here again the question to be determined is what is meant by the word "general." If I meant by "general" ecumenical, I should have spoken as no Catholic can speak; but ecumenical Councils there were none between 325 and 381, and so I could not be referring to any; and in matter of fact I used the word "general" in contrast to "ecumenical," as I had used it in Tract No. 90, and as Bellarmine uses the word. He makes a fourfold division of "general Councils," viz., those which are approbata; reprobata; partim confirmata, partim reprobata; and nec manifeste probata nec manifeste reprobata. Among the "reprobata" he placed the Arian Councils. They were quite large enough to be called "generalia;" the twin Councils of Seleucia and Ariminum numbering as many as 540 Bishops. When I spoke then of "general councils compromising revealed truth," I spoke of the Arian or Eusebian Councils, not of the Catholic.

I hope this is enough to observe on this subject.

Top | Contents | Works | Home


1. From the Rambler, July, 1859.
Return to text

2. The translations which follow are for the most part from Bohn's and the Oxford editions, the passages being abridged.
Return to text

3. A distinguished theologian infers from my words that I deny that "the Church is in every time the activum instrumentum docendi." But I do not admit the fairness of this inference. Distinguo: activum instrumentum docendi virtuale, C. Actuale, N. The Ecumenical Council of 325 was an effective authority in 341, 351, and 359, though at those dates the Arians were in the seats of teaching. Fr. Perrone agrees with me. 1. He reckons the "fidelium sensus" among the "instrumenta traditionis." (Immac. Concept. p. 139.) 2. He contemplates, nay he instances, the case in which the "sensus fidelium" supplies, as the "instrumentum," the absence of the other instruments, the magisterium of the Church, as exercised at Nicæa, being always supposed. One of his instances is that of the dogma de visione Dei beatificâ. He says: "Certe quidem in Ecclesiâ non deerat quoad hunc fidei articulum divina traditio; alioquin, nunquam is definiri potuisset: verum non omnibus illa erat comperta: divina eloquia haud satis in re sunt conspicua; Patres, ut vidimus, in varias abierunt sententias; liturgiæ ipsæ non modicam præ se ferunt difficultatem. His omnibus succurrit juge Ecclesiæ magisterium; communis præterea fidelium sensus." p. 148.
Return to text

Top | Contents | Works | Home

Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright © 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.