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Chapter XV.—The Arian Heresy, its Origin, its Progress, and the Contention which it occasioned among the Bishops.
Although, as we have shown,
religion was in a flourishing condition at this period, yet the
churches were disturbed by sore contentions; for under the pretext of
piety and of seeking the more perfect discovery of God, certain
questions were agitated, which had not, till then, been examined.
Eus. V. C. parts of ii. & iii.; Ruf.
H. E. i. 1–6; Soc. i. 5–13; Philost. H. E. i.
was the originator of these disputations. He was a presbyter of the
church at Alexandria in Egypt, and was at first a zealous thinker about
doctrine, and upheld the innovations of Melitius. Eventually, however,
he abandoned this latter opinion,11091109
No one else suggests an early connection of Arius
with the Melitians.
and was ordained deacon by Peter, bishop of Alexandria, who afterwards
cast him out of the church, because when Peter anathematized the
zealots of Melitius and rejected their baptism, Arius assailed him for
these acts and could not be restrained in quietness. After the
martyrdom of Peter, Arius asked forgiveness of Achillas, and was
restored to his office as deacon, and afterwards elevated to the
presbytery. Afterwards Alexander, also, held him in high repute, since
he was a most expert logician; for it was said that he was not lacking
in such knowledge. He fell into absurd discourses, so that he had the
audacity to preach in the church what no one before him had ever
suggested; namely, that the Son of God was made out of that which had
no prior existence, that there was a period of time in which he existed
not; that, as possessing free will, he was capable of vice and virtue,
and that he was created and made: to these, many other similar
assertions were added as he went forward into the arguments and the
details of inquiry. Those who heard these doctrines advanced, blamed
Alexander for not opposing the innovations at variance with doctrine.
But this bishop deemed it more advisable to leave each party to the
free discussion of doubtful topics, so that by persuasion rather than
by force, they might cease from contention; hence he sat down as a
judge with some of his clergy, and led both sides into a discussion.
But it happened on this occasion, as is generally the case in a strife
of words, that each party claimed the victory. Arius defended his
assertions, but the others contended that the Son is consubstantial and
co-eternal with the Father. The council was convened a second time, and
the same points contested, but they came to no agreement amongst
themselves. During the debate, Alexander seemed to incline first to one
party and then to the other11101110
A doubtful and unsupported assertion. All other
testimony makes Alexander steadfast and exact in his definition.
; finally, however, he declared himself in favor of those who affirmed
that the Son was consubstantial and co-eternal with the Father, and he
commanded Arius to receive this doctrine, and to reject his former
opinions. Arius, however, would not be persuaded to compliance, and
many of the bishops and clergy considered his statement of doctrine to
be correct. Alexander, therefore, ejected him and the clergy who
concurred with him in sentiment from the church. Those of the parish of
Alexandria, who had embraced his opinions, were the presbyters
Aithalas, Achillas, Carpones, Sarmates, and Arius,11111111
There are variations in names, offices, numbers in
attendance, and course of debate in the early as well as later accounts
of the controversy.
and the deacons Euzoïus, Macarius, Julius, Menas, and Helladius.
Many of the people, likewise, sided with them: some, because they
imagined their doctrines to be of God; others, as frequently happens in
similar cases, because they believed them to have 252been ill-treated and unjustly excommunicated.
Such being the state of affairs at Alexandria, the partisans of Arius,
deeming it prudent to seek the favor of the bishops of other cities,
sent legations to them; they sent a written statement of their
doctrines to them, requesting them that, if they considered such
sentiments to be of God, they would signify to Alexander that he ought
not to molest them; but that if they disapproved of the doctrines, they
should teach them what opinions were necessary to be held. This
precaution was of no little advantage to them; for their tenets became
thus universally disseminated, and the questions they had started
became matters of debate among all the bishops. Some wrote to
Alexander, entreating him not to receive the partisans of Arius into
communion unless they repudiated their opinions, while others wrote to
urge a contrary line of conduct. When Alexander perceived that many who
were revered by the appearance of good conduct, and weighty by the
persuasiveness of eloquence, held with the party of Arius, and
particularly Eusebius, president of the church of Nicomedia, a man of
considerable learning and held in high repute at the palace; he wrote
to the bishops of every church desiring them not to hold communion with
them. This measure kindled the zeal of each party the more, and as
might have been expected, the contest was increasingly agitated.
Eusebius and his partisans had often petitioned Alexander, but could
not persuade him; so that considering themselves insulted, they became
indignant and came to a stronger determination to support the doctrine
of Arius. A synod having been convened in Bithynia, they wrote to all
the bishops, desiring them to hold communion with the Arians, as with
those making a true confession, and to require Alexander to hold
communion with them likewise. As compliance could not be extorted from
Alexander, Arius sent messengers to Paulinas, bishop of Tyre, to
Eusebius Pamphilus, who presided over the church of Cæsarea in
Palestine, and to Patrophilus, bishop of Scythopolis, soliciting
permission for himself and for his adherents, as they had previously
attained the rank of presbyters, to form the people who were with them
into a church. For it was the custom in Alexandria, as it still is in
the present day, that all the churches should be under one bishop, but
that each presbyter should have his own church, in which to assemble
the people. These three bishops, in concurrence with others who were
assembled in Palestine, granted the petition of Arius, and permitted
him to assemble the people as before; but enjoined submission to
Alexander, and commanded Arius to strive incessantly to be restored to
peace and communion with him.
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