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SECT. 11:] Conclusion of the council of Nice. 241 them should be burnt, that there might remain to posterity no vestiges of their doctrine; and, to complete the climax, enacted that if any should dare to keep in his possession any book written by Arius, and should not immediately burn it, he should be no sooner convicted of the crime, than he should suffer death.* Such were the aets of the last days of CONSTANTINE THE GREAT.
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED
From the death of Constantine the Great, to the close of the
fourth century. A. D. 337–400. On the decease of Constantine, the government of the Roman empire was distributed between his three sons. To Constantine the II. were assigned the provinces of
should undergo the same infamy with them. As therefore, Porphyrius, an enemy
of godliness, for his having composed wicked books against Chris. tianity, hath found a suitable recompense, so as to be infamous for the time to come, and to be loaded with great reproach, and to have all his impious writings quite destroyed : so also it is now my pleasure, that Arius, and those of Arjas's sentiment shall he called Porphyrians, so that they may have the appellation of those whose manner they have imitated. Moreover, if any book composed by Arius shall be found, it shall be committed to the flames;
that not only his evil doctrine may be destroyed, but that there may not be the least remembrance of it left. This also I enjoin, that if any one shall be found to have concealed any writing composed by Arius, and shall not immediately bring it and consume it in the fire, death shall be his punish. ment; for as soon as he is taken in this crime, he shall suffer a capital pue ujshment.
GOD PRESERVE You, Eusebius's Life of Constantine, b. iii. ch. 65. Sozomen, b. i. ch. 21: Socrates, b. i. ch. 9. The reader will also find a very amusing account of the proceedings of this memorable council (provided he can make the necessary, allowance for the author's predilection for the Catholic party, it being written More Maimburgiano, as Dr. Jortin would <xpress it) in Maimbourg's History of Arianism, translated by Webster, vol. 1. book 1. sto edition, 1727. VOL. I.
[CH. II. Britain, Spain, and Gaul, now called France. To his brother Constans, Illyricum, Italy, and Africa ; whilst Constantius inherited the east, comprehending Asia, Syria, and Egypt, with the city of Constantinople, "to which his father had transferred the imperial residence, and consequently made it the seat of government.ang
In the year 340, a quarrel arose between the two first mentioned brothers, which ended in a war, and that war in the death of Constantine. Constans now added the dominions of the deceased prince to his own, and thereby became sole master of all the western provinces. ' He retained possession of this immense territory until the year 350, when Magnentius, one of his own officers, 'with the view of getting himself declared emperor, contrived to procure the assassination of Constans. The usurper, however, did not long enjoy the fruits of his perfidy; for Constantius, justly incensed by his rebellious conduet, march, ed an army against him, and repulsing him at the outset, Magnentius, transported with rage and despair at his ill success, and apprehending the most terrible and ignominious death from the resentment of the conqueror, put a termination to his own life. Thus Constantius, in the year 353, became sole monarch of the Roman empire, which he governed until the year 361. Marching at the head of his army, in that’year,' to chastise the presumption of his own kinsman, Julian, whom the forces entrusted to his command in Gaul, had, in an hour of victory saluted with the title of Augustus, he was arrested by the hand of death, and expired at Mopsucrene in Cilicia, leaving the vacant throne to Julian.
None of the sons of Constantine the Great, inherited the spirit and genius of their father. They, nevertheless, so far trode in his steps, as to extend their fostering care to the Catholic religion, to accelerate its progress through the empire, and to continue to undermine and abolish the system of paganism.
SECT, n.] Constantiue favors Arianism.
243 But the controversy which had arisen between Arius and Alexander, relative to the sonship of Christ, was far from being put to rest by the decision of the council of Nice. The doctrine Arius, indeed, had been condemned by a very large majority-he himself was banished to Illyricum, and his followers compelled to assent to the confession of faith composed by the synod—his writings also had been proscribed as heretical, and the punishment of death decreed against all who were convicted of the crime of harbouring them in their houses. But persecuting edicts cannot extend their dominion over the thoughts, and it is scarcely less difficult to impose an effectual restraint upon the tongue. Persecution has generally been found favourable to whatever cause it has been directed against; it some how enlists the sensibilities of our nature on the side of the persecuted party; and disposes the mind to a more candid and impartial examination of the question in in dipsute, than we should otherwise possess. It is perhaps too much to affirm with Dr. Middleton, that “truth was never known to be on the persecuting side;"* an impartial examination, however, of the opinions and proceedings of both Arians and Athanasians on this occasion serves in some degree to justify the maxim, and convinces me that they were equally remote from the truth, even as they were alike well disposed to persecute each other in proportion as either party obtained the means of doing it. Only, it is due to the orthodox party to say, that they took the lead in punishing heretics with death, and persuaded the emperor to destroy those whom they could pot convert.
When the undivided government of the empire centered in the hands of Constantius, he evinced a strong predilection for the Arian side of the controversy, and Arianism became fashionable at court. The emperor fa
Preface to his Free Inquiry, p. 8. 4to edit.
voured only the bishops of that party. Paul, the orthodox prelate of the see of Constantinople, was ejected from his office by the emperor's order, and Macedonius substituted in his room. This man adopted a scheme different from either party, and contended that the Son was not consub stantial, but of a like substance with the Father, openly propagating this new theory, after thrusting himself into the bishoprick of Paul ; and thus, by the addition of
ay single letter, affecting to settle the whole dispute. Frivolous as was this distinction, it enraged the orthodox party, who, filled with rage and resentment, rose in a body to oppose Hermogenes, the officer whom Constantius, had sent to introduce him unto his episcopal throne, burnt down his house, and drew him round the streets by his "heels until they had murdered him,
ATHANASIUS, who had rendered such essential service to Alexander, his bishop, in managing the dispute with Arius at the council of Nice, had, by this time, risen to a great popularity, and in reality was become the oracle of the orthodox party. We are supposed to be indebted to : him for the creed which bears his name, and which fills, so eminent a place in the liturgy of our național church. Even to this day he is extolled by such respectable writers as Milner and Hawies, as a prodigy of evangelical light. But whatever may be said of the soundness of bis specu-us lative creed, he was evidently a man of aspiring views and+s! of persecuting principles. In a letter to, Epictetus, bishop of Corinth, alluding to some heretical opinions then prevalent, he says, "I wonder that your , piety, hath borne these things, and that you did not
not immdiately put those heretics under restraint, and propose the true, faith to s them, that if they would not forbear to contradict they might be declared heretics, for it is not to be enduredthat, these things should be either said or heard amongst :* Christians." And
upon another occasion, “they oughts to be held in universal hatred,” says he, “ for opposing
BĒCT. 11.) 2:1 Arian controversy continued. 245 the truth; "a comforting himself that the emperor, when duly informed, would put a stop to their wickedness, and that they would not be long-lived. In one of his letters he 'exhorts' those to whom he wrote, to “ hold fast the confession of the fathers, and to reject all who should speak more or less than was contained in it. And, in his first oration against the Arians, he declares in plain terms, " that the expressing a person's sentiments in the words of scripture, was no sufficient proof of orthodoxy because the devil himself 'used scripture words to cover his wicked designs upon our Saviour, and that heretics were not to be received, though they made use of the very expressions of orthodoxy itself."
The scriptures were now no longer the standard of the Christian faith. What was orthodox and what heterodox, was, from hence forward, to be determined by the decisions of fathers and councils; and religion propagated not by the apostolic methods of persuasion, accompanied with the meekness and gentleness of Christ, but by imperial edicts and decrees; nor were gainsayers to be brought
to conviction by the simple weapons of reason and scripture, but persecuted and destroyed. It cannot surprise us, if after this we find a continual fluctuation of the pub·lic faith, just as the prevailing party obtained the imperial authority to support them; or that we should meet with little else in ecclesiastical history than violence and cruelties, committed by men who had wholly departed from the simplicity of the Christian doctrine and profession; meni enslaved to avarice and ambition; and carried away with views of temporal grandeur, high preferments and largé revenues.
Todwell upon the disgraceful cabals, the violent invec. tivés, and slanderous recriminations of those ruling factions, would afford little edification to the reader, and certainly no pleasure to the writer. Were we disposed