After the death of Constans, Magnentius assumed the chief authority over the Western empire; and, to repress his usurpation, Constantius repaired to Europe. But this war, severe as it was, did not put an end to the war against the Church. Constantius, who had embraced Arian tenets and readily yielded to the influence of others, was persuaded to convoke a council at Milan , a city of Italy, and first to compel all the assembled bishops to sign the deposition enacted by the iniquitous judges at Tyre; and then, since Athanasius had been expelled from the Church, to draw up another confession of faith. The bishops assembled in council on the receipt of the imperial letter, but they were far from acting according to its directions. On the contrary, they told the emperor to his face that what he had commanded was unjust and impious. For this act of courage they were expelled from the Church, and relegated to the furthest boundaries of the empire.
The admirable Athanasius thus mentions this circumstance in his Apology : -- |Who,| he writes, |can narrate such atrocities as they have perpetrated? A short time ago when the Churches were in the enjoyment of peace, and when the people were assembled for prayer, Liberius , bishop of Rome, Paulinus, bishop of the metropolis of Gaul , Dionysius, bishop of the metropolis of Italy , Luciferus, bishop of the metropolis of the Isles of Sardinia , and Eusebius, bishop of one of the cities of Italy , who were all exemplary bishops and preachers of the truth, were seized and driven into exile, for no other cause than because they could not assent to the Arian heresy, nor sign the false accusation which had been framed against us. It is unnecessary that I should speak of the great Hosius, that aged and faithful confessor of the faith, for every one knows that he also was sent into banishment. Of all the bishops he is the most illustrious. What council can be mentioned in which he did not preside, and convince all present by the power of his reasoning? What Church does not still retain the glorious memorials of his protection? Did any one ever go to him sorrowing, and not leave him rejoicing? Who ever asked his aid, and did not obtain all that he desired? Yet they had the boldness to attack this great man, simply because, from his knowledge of the impiety of their calumnies, he refused to affix his signature to their artful accusations against us.|
From the above narrative will be seen the violence of the Arians against these holy men. Athanasius also gives in the same book an account of the numerous plots formed by the chiefs of the Arian faction against many others: -- |Did any one,| said he, |whom they persecuted and got into their power ever escape from them without suffering what injuries they pleased to inflict? Was any one who was an object of their search found by them whom they did not subject to the most agonizing death, or else to the mutilation of all his limbs? The sentences inflicted by the judges are all attributable to these heretics; for the judges are but the agents of their will, and of their malice. Where is there a place which contains no memorial of their atrocities? If any one ever differed from them in opinion, did they not, like Jezebel, falsely accuse and oppress him? Where is there a church which has not been plunged in sorrow by their plots against its bishop? Antioch has to mourn the loss of Eustathius, the faithful and the orthodox . Balaneæ weeps for Euphration ; Paltus and Antaradus for Cymatius and Carterius. Adrianople has been called to deplore the loss of the well-beloved Eutropius , and of Lucius his successor, who was repeatedly loaded with chains, and expired beneath their weight . Ancyra, Beroea, and Gaza had to mourn the absence of Marcellus , Cyrus and Asclepas , who, after having suffered much ill-treatment from this deceitful sect, were driven into exile. Messengers were sent in quest of Theodulus and Olympius , bishops of Thrace, as well as of me and of the presbyters of my diocese; and had they found us, we should no doubt have been put to death. But at the very time that they were planning our destruction we effected our escape, although they had sent letters to Donatus, the proconsul, against Olympius, and to Philagrius , against me.|
Such were the audacious acts of this impious faction against the most holy Christians. Hosius was the bishop of Cordova, and was the most highly distinguished of all those who assembled at the council of Nicæa; he also obtained the first place among those convened at Sardica.
I now desire to insert in my history an account of the admirable arguments addressed by the far-famed Liberius, in defence of the truth, to the emperor Constantius. They are recorded by some of the pious men of that period in order to stimulate others to the exercise of similar zeal in divine things. Liberius had succeeded Julius, the successor of Silvester, in the government of the church of Rome.