When all who defended the faith had been removed, those who moulded the mind of the emperor according to their own will, flattering themselves that the faith which they opposed might be easily subverted, and Arianism established in its stead, persuaded Constantius to convene the Bishops of both East and West at Ariminum , in order to remove from the Creed the terms which had been devised by the Fathers to counteract the corrupt craft of Arius, -- |substance ,| and |of one substance .| For they would have it that these terms had caused dissension between church and church. On their assembling in synod the partizans of the Arian faction strove to trick the majority of the bishops, especially those of cities of the Western Empire, who were men of simple and unsophisticated ways. The body of the Church, they argued again and again, must not be torn asunder for the sake of two terms which are not to be found in the Bible; and, while they confessed the propriety of describing the Son as in all things |like| the Father, pressed the omission of the word |substance| as unscriptural. The motives, however, of the propounders of these views were seen through by the Council, and they were consequently repudiated. The orthodox bishops declared their mind to the emperor in a letter; for, said they, we are sons and heirs of the Fathers of the Council of Nicæa, and if we were to have the hardihood to take away anything from what was by them subscribed, or to add anything to what they so excellently settled, we should declare ourselves no true sons, but accusers of them that begat us. But the exact terms of their confession of faith will be more accurately given in the words of their letter to Constantius.
Letter written to the Emperor Constantius by the Synod assembled at Ariminum.
|Summoned, we believe, at the bidding of God, and in obedience to your piety, we bishops of the Western Church assembled in synod at Ariminum in order that the faith of the Church Catholic might be set forth, and its opponents exposed. After long consideration we have found it to be plainly best for us to hold fast and guard, and by guarding keep safe unto the end, the faith established from the first, preached by Prophets, and Evangelists, and Apostles, through our Lord Jesus Christ, warden of thy empire, and champion of thy salvation. For it is plainly absurd and unlawful to make any change in the doctrines rightly and justly defined, and in matters examined at Nicæa with the cognisance of the right glorious Constantine, thy Father and Emperor, whereof the teaching and spirit was published and preached that mankind might hear and understand. This faith was destined to be the one rival and destroyer of the Arian heresy, and by it not only the Arian itself, but likewise all other heresies were undone. To this faith to add aught is verily perilous; from it to subtract aught is to run great risk. If it have either addition or loss, our foes will feel free to act as they please. Accordingly Ursacius and Valens, declared adherents and friends of the Arian dogma, were pronounced separate from our communion. To keep their place in it, they asked to be granted a locus penitentiæ and pardon for all the points wherein they had owned themselves in error; as is testified by the documents written by themselves, by means of which they obtained favour and forgiveness. These events were going on at the very time when the synod was meeting at Milan, the presbyters of the church of Rome being also present. It was known that Constantine, who, though dead, is worthy of remembrance, had, with all exactitude and care, set forth the creed drawn up: and now that, after receiving Baptism, he was dead, and had passed away to the peace which he deserved. We judged it absurd for us after him to indulge in any innovation, and throw a slur on all the holy confessors and martyrs who had devised and formulated this doctrine, in that their minds have ever remained bound by the old bond of the Church. Their faith God has handed down even to the times of thy own reign, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whose grace such empire is thine that thou rulest over all the world. Yet again those pitiable and wretched men, with lawless daring, have proclaimed themselves preachers of their unholy opinion, and are taking in hand the overthrow of all the force of the truth. For when at thy command the synod assembled, then they laid bare their own disingenuous desires. For they set about trying through villany and confusion to make innovation. They got hold of certain of their own following -- one Germanius , and Auxentius , and Caius , promoters of heresy and discord, whose doctrine, though but one, transcends a very host of blasphemies. When, however, they became aware that we were not of their way of thinking, nor in sympathy with their vicious projects, they made their way into our meeting as though to make some other proposal, but a very short time was enough to convict them of their real intentions. Therefore in order to save the management of the Church from falling from time to time into the same difficulties, and to prevent them from being confounded in whirlpools of disturbance and disorder, it has seemed the safe course to keep what has been defined aforetime fixed and unchanged, and to separate the above-named from our communion. Wherefore we have sent envoys to your clemency to signify and explain the mind of the synod as expressed in this letter. These envoys before all things we have charged to guard the truth in accordance with the old and right definitions. They are to inform your holiness, not as did Ursacius and Valens, that there will be peace if the truth be upset; for how can the destroyers of peace be agents of peace? but rather that these changes will bring strife and disturbance, as well on the rest of the cities, as on the Roman church. Wherefore we beseech your clemency to receive our envoys with kindly ears and gentle mien, and not to suffer any new thing to flout the dead. Suffer us to abide in the definition and settlement of our Fathers, whom we would unhesitatingly declare to have done all they did with intelligence and wisdom, and with the Holy Ghost. The innovation now sought to be introduced is filling the faithful with unbelief, and unbelievers with credulity .
|We beg you to order bishops in distant parts, who are afflicted alike by advanced age and poverty, to be provided with facilities for travelling home, that the churches be not left long deprived of their bishops.
|And yet again this one thing we supplicate, that nothing be taken from or added to the established doctrines, but that all remain unbroken, as they have been preserved by your father's piety, and to our own day. Let us toil no longer nor be kept away from our own dioceses, but let the bishops with their own people spend their days in peace, in prayer, and in worship, offering supplication for thy empire, and health, and peace, which God shall grant thee for ever and ever. Our envoys, who will also instruct your holiness out of the sacred Scriptures, convey the signatures and salutations of the bishops.|
The letter was written, and the envoys sent, but the high officers of the Imperial Court, though they took the despatch and delivered it to their master, refused to introduce the envoys, on the ground that the sovereign was occupied with state affairs. They took this course in the hope that the bishops, annoyed at delay, and eager to return to the cities entrusted to their care, would at length be compelled themselves to break up and disperse the bulwark erected against heresy. But their ingenuity was frustrated, for the noble champions of the Faith despatched a second letter to the emperor, exhorting him to admit the envoys to audience and dissolve the synod. This letter I subjoin.
The Second Letter of the Synod to Constantius.
|To Constantius the Victorious, the pious emperor, the bishops assembled at Ariminum send greeting.
|Most illustrious lord and autocrat, we have received the letter of your clemency, informing us that, in consequence of occupations of state, you have hitherto been unable to see our envoys. You bid us await their return, that your piety may come to a decision on the object we have in view, and on the decrees of our predecessors. But we venture in this letter to repeat to your clemency the point which we urged before, for we have in no way withdrawn from our position. We entreat you to receive with benign countenance the letter of our humility, wherein now we make answer to your piety, and the points which we have ordered to be submitted to your benignity by our envoys. Your clemency is no less aware than we are ourselves how serious and unfitting a state of things it is, that in the time of your most happy reign so many churches should seem to be without bishops. Wherefore once again, most glorious autocrat, we beseech you that, if it be pleasing to your humanity, you will command us to return to our churches before the rigour of winter, that we may be able, with our people, as we have done and ever do, to offer most earnest prayers for the health and wealth of your empire to Almighty God, and to Christ His Son, our Lord and Saviour.|