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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter XXVII.--Of the Council of Antioch and what was done there against the holy Meletius.

The Ecclesiastical History Of Theodoret by Theodoret

Chapter XXVII.--Of the Council of Antioch and what was done there against the holy Meletius.

At this time, Constantius was residing at Antioch. The Persian war was over; there had been a time of peace, and he once again gathered bishops together with the object of making them all deny both the formula |of one substance| and also the formula |of different substance.| On the death of Leontius, Eudoxius had seized the see of Antioch, but on his expulsion and illegal establishment, after many synods, at Constantinople, the church of Antioch had been left without a shepherd. Accordingly the assembled bishops, gathered in considerable numbers from every quarter, asserted that their primary obligation was to provide a pastor for the flock and that then with him they would deliberate on matters of faith. It fell out opportunely that the divine Meletius who was ruling a certain city of Armenia had been grieved with the insubordination of the people under his rule and was now living without occupation elsewhere. The Arian faction imagined that Meletius was of the same way of thinking as themselves, and an upholder of their doctrines. They therefore petitioned Constantius to commit to his hands the reins of the Antiochene church. Indeed in the hope of establishing their impiety there was no law that they did not fearlessly transgress; illegality was becoming the very foundation of their blasphemy; nor was this an isolated specimen of their irregular proceedings. On the other hand the maintainers of apostolic doctrine, who were perfectly well aware of the soundness of the great Meletius, and had clear knowledge of his stainless character and wealth of virtue, came to a common vote, and took measures to have their resolution written out and subscribed by all without delay. This document both parties as a bond of compromise entrusted to the safe keeping of a bishop who was a noble champion of the truth, Eusebius of Samosata. And when the great Meletius had received the imperial summons and arrived, forth to meet him came all the higher ranks of the priesthood, forth came all the other orders of the church, and the whole population of the city. There, too, were Jews and Gentiles all eager to see the great Meletius. Now the emperor had charged both Meletius and the rest who were able to speak to expound to the multitude the text |The Lord formed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old| (Prov. viii.22. lxx), and he ordered skilled writers to take down on the spot what each man said, with the idea that in this manner their instruction would be more exact. First of all Georgius of Laodicea gave vent to his foul heresy. After him Acacius of Cæsarea propounded a doctrine of compromise far removed indeed from the blasphemy of the enemy, but not preserving the apostolic doctrine pure and undefiled. Then up rose the great Meletius and exhibited the unbending line of the canon of the faith, for using the truth as a carpenter does his rule he avoided excess and defect. Then the multitude broke into loud applause and besought him to give them a short summary of his teaching. Accordingly after showing three fingers, he withdrew two, left one, and uttered the memorable sentence, |In thought they are three but we speak as to one.|

Against this teaching the men who had the plague of Arius in their hearts whetted their tongues, and started an ingenious slander, declaring that the divine Meletius was a Sabellian. Thus they persuaded the fickle sovereign who, like the well known Euripus, easily shifted his current now this way and now that, and induced him to relegate Meletius to his own home.

Euzoius, an open defender of Arian tenets, was promptly promoted to his place; the very man whom, then a deacon, the great Alexander had degraded at the same time as Arius. Now the part of the people who remained sound separated from the unsound and assembled in the apostolic church which is situated in the part of the city called the Palæa.

For thirty years indeed after the attack made upon the illustrious Eustathius they had gone on enduring the abomination of Arianism, in the expectation of some favourable change. But when they saw impiety on the increase, and men faithful to the apostolic doctrines both openly attacked and menaced by secret conspiracy, the divine Meletius in exile, and Euzoius the champion of heresy established as bishop in his place, they remembered the words spoken to Lot, |Escape for thy life|; and further the law of the gospel which plainly ordains |if thy right eye offend thee pluck it out and cast it from thee.| The Lord laid down the same law about both hand and foot, and added, |It is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.|

Thus came about the division of the Church.

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