Part I. History of the Councils.
Reason why two Councils were called. Inconsistency and folly of calling any; and of the style of the Arian formularies; occasion of the Nicene Council; proceedings at Ariminum; Letter of the Council to Constantius; its decree. Proceedings at Seleucia; reflections on the conduct of the Arians.
1. Perhaps news has reached even yourselves concerning the Council, which is at this time the subject of general conversation; for letters both from the Emperor and the Prefects were circulated far and wide for its convocation. However, you take that interest in the events which have occurred, that I have determined upon giving you an account of what I have seen myself, and accurately ascertained, which may save you from the suspense attendant on the reports of others; and this the more, because there are parties who are in the habit of misrepresenting what has happened. At Nicæa then, which had been fixed upon, the Council has not met, but a second edict was issued, convening the Western Bishops at Ariminum in Italy, and the Eastern at Seleucia the Rugged, as it is called, in Isauria. The professed reason of such a meeting was to treat of the faith touching our Lord Jesus Christ; and those who alleged it, were Ursacius, Valens, and one Germinius from Pannonia; and from Syria, Acacius, Eudoxius, and Patrophilus of Scythopolis. These men who had always been of the Arian party, and understood neither how they believe or whereof they affirm,' and were silently deceiving first one and then another, and scattering the second sowing of their heresy, influenced some who seemed to be somewhat, and the Emperor Constantius among them, being a heretic , on some pretence about the Faith, to call a Council; under the idea that they should be able to put into the shade the Nicene Council, and prevail upon all to turn round, and to establish irreligion everywhere instead of the Truth.
2. Now here I marvel first, and think that I shall carry every sensible man whatever with me, that, whereas a General Council had been fixed, and all were looking forward to it, it was all of a sudden divided into two, so that one part met here, and the other there. However, this was surely the doing of Providence, in order in the respective Councils to exhibit the faith without guile or corruption of the one party, and to expose the dishonesty and duplicity of the other. Next, this too was on the mind of myself and my true brethren here, and made us anxious, the impropriety of this great gathering which we saw in progress; for what pressed so much, that the whole world was to be put in confusion, and those who at the time bore the profession of clergy, should run about far and near, seeking how best to learn to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ? Certainly if they were believers already, they would not have been seeking, as though they were not. And to the catechumens, this was no small scandal; but to the heathen, it was something more than common, and even furnished broad merriment , that Christians, as if waking out of sleep at this time of day, should be enquiring how they were to believe concerning Christ; while their professed clergy, though claiming deference from their flocks, as teachers, were unbelievers on their own shewing, in that they were seeking what they had not. And the party of Ursacius, who were at the bottom of all this, did not understand what wrath they were storing up (Rom. ii.5) against themselves, as our Lord says by His saints, Woe unto them, through whom My Name is blasphemed among the Gentiles' (Is. lii.5; Rom. ii.24); and by His own mouth in the Gospels (Matt. xviii.6), Whoso shall offend one of these little ones, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea, than,' as Luke adds, that he should offend one of these little ones' (Luke xvii.2).
3. What defect of teaching was there for religious truth in the Catholic Church , that they should enquire concerning faith now, and should prefix this year's Consulate to their profession of faith? For Ursacius and Valens and Germinius and their friends have done what never took place, never was heard of among Christians. After putting into writing what it pleased them to believe, they prefix to it the Consulate, and the month and the day of the current year ; thereby to shew all sensible men, that their faith dates, not from of old, but now, from the reign of Constantius ; for whatever they write has a view to their own heresy. Moreover, though pretending to write about the Lord, they nominate another master for themselves, Constantius, who has bestowed on them this reign of irreligion ; and they who deny that the Son is everlasting, have called him Eternal Emperor; such foes of Christ are they in addition to irreligion. But perhaps the dates in the holy Prophets form their excuse for the Consulate; so bold a pretence, however, will serve but to publish more fully their ignorance of the subject. For the prophecies of the saints do indeed specify their times (for instance, Isaiah and Hosea lived in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; Jeremiah in the days of Josiah; Ezekiel and Daniel prophesied under Cyrus and Darius; and others in other times); yet they were not laying the foundations of divine religion; it was before them, and was always, for before the foundation of the world God prepared it for us in Christ. Nor were they signifying the respective dates of their own faith; for they had been believers before these dates. But the dates did but belong to their own preaching. And this preaching spoke beforehand of the Saviour's coming, but directly of what was to happen to Israel and the nations; and the dates denoted not the commencement of faith, as I said before, but of the prophets themselves, that is, when it was they thus prophesied. But our modern sages, not in historical narration, nor in prediction of the future, but, after writing, The Catholic Faith was published,' immediately add the Consulate and the month and the day, that, as the saints specified the dates of their histories, and of their own ministries, so these may mark the date of their own faith. And would that they had written, touching their own ' (for it does date from today); and had not made their essay as touching the Catholic,' for they did not write, Thus we believe,' but the Catholic Faith was published.'
4. The boldness then of their design shews how little they understand the subject; while the novelty of their phrase matches the Arian heresy. For thus they shew, when it was they began their own faith, and that from that same time present they would have it proclaimed. And as according to the Evangelist Luke, there was made a decree' (Luke ii.1) concerning the taxing, and this decree before was not, but began from those days in which it was made by its framer, they also in like manner, by writing, The Faith is now published,' shewed that the sentiments of their heresy are novel, and were not before. But if they add of the Catholic Faith,' they fall before they know it into the extravagance of the Phrygians, and say with them, To us first was revealed,' and from us dates the Faith of Christians.' And as those inscribe it with the names of Maximilla and Montanus , so do these with Constantius, Master,' instead of Christ. If, however, as they would have it, the faith dates from the present Consulate, what will the Fathers do, and the blessed Martyrs? nay, what will they themselves do with their own catechumens, who departed to rest before this Consulate? how will they wake them up, that so they may obliterate their former lessons, and may sow in turn the seeming discoveries which they have now put into writing ? So ignorant they are on the subject; with no knowledge but that of making excuses, and those unbecoming and unplausible, and carrying with them their own refutation.
5. As to the Nicene Council, it was not a common meeting, but convened upon a pressing necessity, and for a reasonable object. The Syrians, Cilicians, and Mesopotamians, were out of order in celebrating the Feast, and kept Easter with the Jews ; on the other hand, the Arian heresy had risen up against the Catholic Church, and found supporters in Eusebius and his fellows, who were both zealous for the heresy, and conducted the attack upon religious people. This gave occasion for an Ecumenical Council, that the feast might be everywhere celebrated on one day, and that the heresy which was springing up might be anathematized. It took place then; and the Syrians submitted, and the Fathers pronounced the Arian heresy to be the forerunner of Antichrist , and drew up a suitable formula against it. And yet in this, many as they are, they ventured on nothing like the proceedings of these three or four men . Without pre-fixing Consulate, month, and day, they wrote concerning Easter, It seemed good as follows,' for it did then seem good that there should be a general compliance; but about the faith they wrote not, It seemed good,' but, Thus believes the Catholic Church;' and thereupon they confessed how they believed, in order to shew that their own sentiments were not novel, but Apostolical; and what they wrote down was no discovery of theirs, but is the same as was taught by the Apostles.
6. But the Councils which they are now setting in motion, what colourable pretext have they ? If any new heresy has risen since the Arian, let them tell us the positions which it has devised, and who are its inventors? and in their own formula, let them anathematize the heresies antecedent to this Council of theirs, among which is the Arian, as the Nicene Fathers did, that it may appear that they too have some cogent reason for saying what is novel. But if no such event has happened, and they have it not to shew, but rather they themselves are uttering heresies, as holding Arius's irreligion, and are exposed day by day, and day by day shift their ground , what need is there of Councils, when the Nicene is sufficient, as against the Arian heresy, so against the rest, which it has condemned one and all by means of the sound faith? For even the notorious Aetius, who was surnamed godless , vaunts not of the discovering of any mania of his own, but under stress of weather has been wrecked upon Arianism, himself and the persons whom he has beguiled. Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith's sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture .
7. Having therefore no reason on their side, but being in difficulty whichever way they turn, in spite of their pretences, they have nothing left but to say; Forasmuch as we contradict our predecessors, and transgress the traditions of the Fathers, therefore we have thought good that a Council should meet ; but again, whereas we fear lest, should it meet at one place, our pains will be thrown away, therefore we have thought good that it be divided into two; that so when we put forth our documents to these separate portions, we may overreach with more effect, with the threat of Constantius the patron of this irreligion, and may supersede the acts of Nicæa, under pretence of the simplicity of our own documents.' If they have not put this into words, yet this is the meaning of their deeds and their disturbances. Certainly, many and frequent as have been their speeches and writings in various Councils, never yet have they made mention of the Arian heresy as objectionable; but, if any present happened to accuse the heresies, they always took up the defence of the Arian, which the Nicene Council had anathematized; nay, rather, they cordially welcomed the professors of Arianism. This then is in itself a strong argument, that the aim of the present Councils was not truth, but the annulling of the acts of Nicæa; but the proceedings of them and their friends in the Councils themselves, make it equally clear that this was the case: -- For now we must relate everything as it occurred.
8. When all were in expectation that they were to assemble in one place, whom the Emperor's letters convoked, and to form one Council, they were divided into two; and, while some betook themselves to Seleucia called the Rugged, the others met at Ariminum, to the number of those four hundred bishops and more, among whom were Germinius, Auxentius, Valens, Ursacius, Demophilus, and Gaius . And, while the whole assembly was discussing the matter from the Divine Scriptures, these men produced a paper, and, reading out the Consulate, they demanded that it should be preferred to every Council, and that no questions should be put to the heretics beyond it, nor inquiry made into their meaning, but that it should be sufficient by itself; -- and what they had written ran as follows: --
The Catholic Faith was published in the presence of our Master the most religious and gloriously victorious Emperor, Constantius, Augustus, the eternal and august, in the Consulate of the most illustrious Flavii, Eusebius and Hypatius, in Sirmium on the 11th of the Calends of June .
We believe in one Only and True God, the Father Almighty, Creator and Framer of all things:
And in one Only-begotten Son of God, who, before all ages, and before all origin, and before all conceivable time, and before all comprehensible essence, was begotten impassibly from God: through whom the ages were disposed and all things were made; and Him begotten as the Only-begotten, Only from the Only Father, God from God, like to the Father who begat Him, according to the Scriptures; whose origin no one knoweth save the Father alone who begat Him. We know that He, the Only-begotten Son of God, at the Father's bidding came from the heavens for the abolishment of sin, and was born of the Virgin Mary, and conversed with the disciples, and fulfilled the Economy according to the Father's will, and was crucified, and died and descended into the parts beneath the earth, and regulated the things there, Whom the gate-keepers of hell saw (Job xxxviii.17, LXX.) and shuddered; and He rose from the dead the third day, and conversed with the disciples, and fulfilled all the Economy, and when the forty days were full, ascended into the heavens, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father, and is coming in the last day of the resurrection in the glory of the Father, to render to every one according to his works.
And in the Holy Ghost, whom the Only-begotten of God Himself, Jesus Christ, had promised to send to the race of men, the Paraclete, as it is written, I go to My Father, and I will ask the Father, and He shall send unto you another Paraclete, even the Spirit of Truth. He shall take of Mine and shall teach and bring to your remembrance all things' (Job. xiv.16, 17, 26; xvi.14).
But whereas the term essence,' has been adopted by the Fathers in simplicity, and gives offence as being misconceived by the people, and is not contained in the Scriptures, it has seemed good to remove it, that it be never in any case used of God again, because the divine Scriptures nowhere use it of Father and Son. But we say that the Son is like the Father in all things, as also the Holy Scriptures say and teach .
9. When this had been read, the dishonesty of its framers was soon apparent. For on the Bishops proposing that the Arian heresy should be anathematized together with the other heresies too, and all assenting, Ursacius and Valens and those with them refused; till in the event the Fathers condemned them, on the ground that their confession had been written, not in sincerity, but for the annulling of the acts of Nicæa, and the introduction instead of their unhappy heresy. Marvelling then at the deceitfulness of their language and their unprincipled intentions, the Bishops said: Not as if in need of faith have we come hither; for we have within us faith, and that in soundness: but that we may put to shame those who gainsay the truth and attempt novelties. If then ye have drawn up this formula, as if now beginning to believe, ye are not so much as clergy, but are starting with school; but if you meet us with the same views with which we have come hither, let there be a general unanimity, and let us anathematize the heresies, and preserve the teaching of the Fathers. Thus pleas for Councils will not longer circulate about, the Bishops at Nicæa having anticipated them once for all, and done all that was needful for the Catholic Church .' However, even then, in spite of this general agreement of the Bishops, still the above-mentioned refused. So at length the whole Council, condemning them as ignorant and deceitful men, or rather as heretics, gave their suffrages in behalf of the Nicene Council, and gave judgment all of them that it was enough; but as to the forenamed Ursacius and Valens, Germinius, Auxentius, Gaius, and Demophilus, they pronounced them to be heretics, deposed them as not really Christians, but Arians, and wrote against them in Latin what has been translated in its substance into Greek, thus: --
10. Copy of an Epistle from the Council to Constantius Augustus .
We believe that what was formerly decreed was brought about both by God's command and by order of your piety. For we the bishops, from all the Western cities, assembled together at Ariminum, both that the Faith of the Catholic Church might be made known, and that gainsayers might be detected. For, as we have found after long deliberation, it appeared desirable to adhere to and maintain to the end, that faith which, enduring from antiquity, we have received as preached by the prophets, the Gospels, and the Apostles through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is Keeper of your Kingdom and Patron of your power. For it appeared wrong and unlawful to make any change in what was rightly and justly defined, and what was resolved upon in common at Nicæa along with the Emperor your father, the most glorious Constantine, -- the doctrine and spirit of which [definition] went abroad and was proclaimed in the hearing and understanding of all men. For it alone was the conqueror and destroyer of the heresy of Arius, by which not that only but the other heresies also were destroyed, to which of a truth it is perilous to add, and full of danger to minish aught from it, since if either be done, our enemies will be able with impunity to do whatever they will. Accordingly Ursacius and Valens, since they had been from of old abettors and sympathisers of the Arian dogma, were properly declared separate from our communion, to be admitted to which they asked to be allowed a place of repentance and pardon for the transgressions of which they were conscious, as the documents drawn up by them testify. By which means forgiveness and pardon on all charges has been obtained. Now the time of these transactions was when the council was assembled at Milan , the presbyters of the Roman Church being also present. But knowing at the same time that Constantine of worthy memory had with all accuracy and deliberation published the Faith then drawn up; when he had been baptized by the hands of men, and had departed to the place which was his due, [we think it] unseemly to make a subsequent innovation and to despise so many saints, confessors, martyrs, who compiled and drew up this decree; who moreover have continued to hold in all matters according to the ancient law of the Church; whose faith God has imparted even to the times of your reign through our Master Jesus Christ, through whom also it is yours to reign and rule over the world in our day . Once more then the pitiful men of wretched mind with lawless daring have announced themselves as the heralds of an impious opinion, and are attempting to upset every summary of truth. For when according to your command the synod met, those men laid bare the design of their own deceitfulness. For they attempted in a certain unscrupulous and disorderly manner to propose to us an innovation, having found as accomplices in this plot Germinius, Auxentius , and Gaius, the stirrers up of strife and discord, whose teaching by itself has gone beyond every pitch of blasphemy. But when they perceived that we did not share their purpose, nor agree with their evil mind, they transferred themselves to our council, alleging that it might be advisable to compile something instead. But a short time was enough to expose their plans. And lest the Churches should have a recurrence of these disturbances, and a whirl of discord and confusion throw everything into disorder, it seemed good to keep undisturbed the ancient and reasonable institutions, and that the above persons should be separated from our communion. For the information therefore of your clemency, we have instructed our legates to acquaint you with the judgment of the Council by our letter, to whom we have given this special direction, to establish the truth by resting their case upon the ancient and just decrees; and they will also assure your piety that peace would not be accomplished by the removal of those decrees as Valens and Ursacius alleged. For how is it possible for peace-breakers to bring peace? on the contrary, by their means strife and confusion will arise not only in the other cities, but also in the Church of the Romans. On this account we ask your clemency to regard our legates with favourable ears and a serene countenance and not to suffer aught to be abrogated to the dishonour of the dead; but allow us to abide by what has been defined and laid down by our forefathers, who, we venture to say, we trust in all things acted with prudence and wisdom and the Holy Spirit; because by these novelties not only are the faithful made to disbelieve, but the infidels also are embittered . We pray also that you would give orders that so many Bishops who are detained abroad, among whom are numbers who are broken with age and poverty, may be enabled to return to their own country, lest the Churches suffer, as being deprived of their Bishops. This, however, we ask with earnestness, that nothing be innovated upon existing creeds, nothing withdrawn; but that all remain incorrupt which has continued in the times of your Father's piety and to the present time; and that you will not permit us to be harassed, and estranged from our sees; but that the Bishops may in quiet give themselves always to prayers and worship, which they do always offer for your own safety and for your reign, and for peace, which may the Divinity bestow on you for ever. But our legates are conveying the subscriptions and titles of the Bishops, and will also inform your piety from the Holy Scriptures themselves.
11. Decree of the Council .
As far as it was fitting and possible, dearest brethren, the general Council and the holy Church have had patience, and have generously displayed the Church's forbearance towards Ursacius and Valens, Gaius, Germinius, and Auxentius; who by so often changing what they had believed, have troubled all the Churches, and still are endeavouring to foist their heretical spirit upon the faith of the orthodox. For they wish to annul the formulary passed at Nicæa, which was framed against the Arian heresy. They have presented to us besides a creed drawn up by themselves from without, and utterly alien to the most holy Church; which we could not lawfully receive. Even before this, and now, have they been pronounced heretics and gainsayers by us, whom we have not admitted to our communion, but condemned and deposed them in their presence by our voices. Now then, what seems good to you, again declare, that each one's vote may be ratified by his subscription.
The Bishops answered with one accord, It seems good that the aforenamed heretics should be condemned, that the Catholic faith may remain in peace.
Matters at Ariminum then had this speedy issue; for there was no disagreement there, but all of them with one accord both put into writing what they decided upon, and deposed the Arians .
12. Meanwhile the transactions in Seleucia the Rugged were as follows: it was in the month called by the Romans September, by the Egyptians Thoth, and by the Macedonians Gorpiæus, and the day of the month according to the Egyptians the 16th , upon which all the members of the Council assembled together. And there were present about a hundred and sixty; and whereas there were many who were accused among them, and their accusers were crying out against them, Acacius, and Patrophilus, and Uranius of Tyre, and Eudoxius, who usurped the Church of Antioch, and Leontius , and Theodotus , and Evagrius, and Theodulus, and George who has been driven from the whole world , adopt an unprincipled course. Fearing the proofs which their accusers had to shew against them, they coalesced with the rest of the Arian party (who were mercenaries in the cause of irreligion for this purpose, and were ordained by Secundus, who had been deposed by the great Council), the Libyan Stephen, and Seras, and Polydeuces, who were under accusation upon various charges, next Pancratius, and one Ptolemy a Meletian . And they made a pretence of entering upon the question of faith, but it was clear they were doing so from fear of their accusers; and they took the part of the heresy, till at length they were divided among themselves. For, whereas those with Acacius and his fellows lay under suspicion and were very few, the others were the majority; therefore Acacius and his fellows, acting with the boldness of desperation, altogether denied the Nicene formula, and censured the Council, while the others, who were the majority, accepted the whole proceedings of the Council, except that they complained of the word Coessential,' as obscure and so open to suspicion. When then time passed, and the accusers pressed, and the accused put in pleas, and thereby were led on further by their irreligion and blasphemed the Lord, thereupon the majority of Bishops became indignant , and deposed Acacius, Patrophilus, Uranius, Eudoxius, and George the contractor , and others from Asia, Leontius, and Theodosius, Evagrius and Theodulus, and excommunicated Asterius, Eusebius, Augarus, Basilicus, Phoebus, Fidelius, Eutychius, and Magnus. And this they did on their non-appearance, when summoned to defend themselves on charges which numbers preferred against them. And they decreed that so they should remain, until they made their defence and cleared themselves of the offences imputed to them. And after despatching the sentence pronounced against them to the diocese of each, they proceeded to Constantius, the most irreligious Augustus, to report to him their proceedings, as they had been ordered. And this was the termination of the Council in Seleucia.
13. Who then but must approve of the conscientious conduct of the Bishops at Ariminum? who endured such labour of journey and perils of sea, that by a sacred and canonical resolution they might depose the Arians, and guard inviolate the definitions of the Fathers. For each of them deemed that, if they undid the acts of their predecessors, they were affording a pretext to their successors to undo what they themselves then were enacting . And who but must condemn the fickleness of Eudoxius, Acacius, and their fellows, who sacrifice the honour due to their own fathers to partizanship and patronage of the Ario-maniacs ? for what confidence can be placed in their acts, if the acts of their fathers be undone? or how call they them fathers and themselves successors, if they set about impeaching their judgment? and especially what can Acacius say of his own master, Eusebius, who not only gave his subscription in the Nicene Council, but even in a letter signified to his flock, that that was true faith, which the Council had declared? for, if he explained himself in that letter in his own way , yet he did not contradict the Council's terms, but even charged it upon the Arians, that their position that the Son was not before His generation, was not even consistent with His being before Mary. What then will they proceed to teach the people who are under their teaching? that the Fathers erred? and how are they themselves to be trusted by those, whom they teach to disobey their Teachers? and with what eyes too will they look upon the sepulchres of the Fathers whom they now name heretics? And why do they defame the Valentinians, Phrygians, and Manichees, yet give the name of saint to those whom they themselves suspect of making parallel statements? or how can they any longer be Bishops, if they were ordained by persons whom they accuse of heresy ? But if their sentiments were wrong and their writings seduced the world, then let their memory perish altogether; when, however, you cast out their books, go and cast out their remains too from the cemeteries, so that one and all may know that they are seducers, and that you are parricides.
14. The blessed Apostle approves of the Corinthians because, he says, ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I delivered them to you' (1 Cor. xi.2); but they, as entertaining such views of their predecessors, will have the daring to say just the reverse to their flocks: We praise you not for remembering your fathers, but rather we make much of you, when you hold not their traditions.' And let them go on to accuse their own unfortunate birth, and say, We are sprung not of religious men but of heretics.' For such language, as I said before, is consistent in those who barter their Fathers' fame and their own salvation for Arianism, and fear not the words of the divine proverb, There is a generation that curseth their father' (Prov. xxx.11; Ex. xxi.17), and the threat lying in the Law against such. They then, from zeal for the heresy, are of this obstinate temper; you, however, be not troubled at it, nor take their audacity for truth. For they dissent from each other, and, whereas they have revolted from their Fathers, are not of one and the same mind, but float about with various and discordant changes. And, as quarrelling with the Council of Nicæa, they have held many Councils themselves, and have published a faith in each of them, and have stood to none , nay, they will never do otherwise, for perversely seeking, they will never find that Wisdom which they hate. I have accordingly subjoined portions both of Arius's writings and of whatever else I could collect, of their publications in different Councils; whereby you will learn to your surprise with what object they stand out against an Ecumenical Council and their own Fathers without blushing.