The presidents of the churches now resumed the agitation of doctrinal questions and discussions. They had remained quiet during the reign of Julian when Christianity itself was endangered, and had unanimously offered up their supplications for the mercy of God. It is thus that men, when attacked by foreign enemies, remain in accord among themselves; but, when external troubles are removed, then internal dissensions creep in; this, however, is not a proper place for the citation of the numerous examples in governments and nations which history affords of this fact.
At this period Basil, bishop of Ancyra, Silvanus, bishop of Tarsus, Sophronius, bishop of Pompeiopolis, and others of their party who regarded the heresy of the Anomians, so-called, with the utmost aversion, and received the term |similar as to substance,| instead of the term |consubstantial,| wrote a treatise to the emperor; and after expressing their thankfulness to God for his accession to the empire, besought him to confirm the decrees issued at Ariminum and Seleucia, and to annul what had been established merely by the zeal and power of certain individuals.
They also entreated that, if division, which existed on account of the Synods, should still prevail in the churches, the bishops from every region might be convened alone in some place indicated by the emperor, and not be permitted to assemble elsewhere and issue decrees at variance with each other, as had been done during the reign of Constantius. They added that they had not gone to visit him at his camp, because they were fearful of being burdensome to him; but that if he desired to see them, they would gladly repair to him, and defray all the expenses attendant on the journey themselves. Such was the document written to the Emperor Jovian.
At this juncture a council was convened at Antioch in Syria; the form of belief established by the council of Nicæa was confirmed; and it was decided that the Son is incontrovertibly of the same substance as the Father. Meletius, who then governed the church of Antioch; Eusebius, bishop of Samosata; Pelagius, bishop of Laodicea in Syria; Acacius, bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine; Irenius, bishop of Gaza; and Athanasius, bishop of Ancyra, took part in this council.
On the termination of the council they acquainted the emperor with the transactions that had taken place, by dispatching the following letter: --
|To the most religious and God-beloved Augustus, our Sovereign Jovian, the Conqueror, from the bishops assembled from divers regions, at Antioch.
|We know, O emperor, well-beloved of God, that your piety is fully intent upon maintaining peace and concord in the Church; neither are we ignorant that you have well received the impress of the chief point of such unity, viz., the true and orthodox faith.
|Lest, therefore, we should be reckoned among those who assail these doctrines of truth, we attest to your piety that we receive and maintain the form of belief which was anciently set forth by the holy council of Nicæa. Now, although the term consubstantial' appears strange to some persons, yet it was safely interpreted by the Fathers, and signifies that the Son was begotten of the substance of the Father. This term does not convey the idea of unbroken generation; neither does it coincide with the use which the Greeks make of the word substance,' but it is calculated to withstand the impious and rash allegation of Arius, that the Son proceeded from what had had no previous existence. The Anomians who have just sprung up have the shameless boldness to maintain this word to the grief of the concord of the Church. We subjoin to this letter a copy of the formulary of faith adopted by the bishops assembled at Nicæa, which we also cherish.|
Such were the decisions formed by the priests convened at Antioch; and they appended to their letter a copy of the Nicene formulary of faith.