The Arians, who were still very strong in point of numbers, and who, through the protection formerly granted by Constantius and Valens, were still convening without fear, and discoursing publicly concerning God and the Divine nature, now determined upon making an attempt to gain over the emperor to their party, through the intervention of individuals of their sect who held appointments at court; and they entertained hopes of succeeding in this project, as well as they had succeeded in the case of Constantius. These machinations excited great anxiety and fear among the members of the Catholic Church; but the chief cause of their apprehension was the reasoning power of Eunomius. It appears that, during the reign of Valens, Eunomius had some dispute with his own clergy at Cyzicus, and had in consequence seceded from the Arians, and retired to Bithynia, near Constantinople. Here multitudes resorted to him; some also gathered from different quarters, a few with the design of testing his principles, and others merely from the desire of listening to his discourses. His reputation reached the ears of the emperor, who would gladly have held a conference with him. But the Empress Flacilla studiously prevented an interview from taking place between them; for she was the most faithful guard of the Nicene doctrines, and feared lest Eunomius might, by his powers of disputation, induce a change in the sentiments of the emperor.
In the meantime, while these intrigues were being carried on by each party, it is said that the bishops then residing in Constantinople went to the emperor, to render him the customary salutations. An old priest from a city of little note, and who was simple and unworldly, yet well instructed in Divine subjects, formed one of this party. The rest saluted the emperor with uncovered head and very reverently. The aged priest greeted him in the same form; but, instead of rendering equal honor to the prince, who was seated beside his father, the old priest approached him, patted him familiarly, and called him his dear child. The emperor was incensed and enraged at the indignity offered to his son, in that he had not been accorded like honor; and commanded that the old man should be thrust from his presence with violence. While being pushed away, hither and thither, however, the old priest turned around and exclaimed, |Reflect, O emperor, on the wrath of the Heavenly Father against those who do not honor His Son as Himself, and who have the audacity to assert that the Son is inferior to the Father.| The emperor felt the force of this observation, recalled the priest, apologized to him for what had occurred, and confessed that he had spoken the truth. The emperor was henceforward less disposed to hold intercourse with heretics, and he prohibited contests and assemblies in the markets. He made it dangerous to hold discussions of this kind about the substance and nature of God, by enacting a law, and defining the punishments in this matter.