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Chapter XVII.—Of the Council convened at Nicæa on Account of Arius.

When it was found that the event did not answer the expectations of the emperor, but that on the contrary, the contention was too great for reconciliation, so that he who had been sent to make peace returned without having accomplished his mission, Constantine convened a synod at Nicæa, in Bithynia, and wrote11151115    Eus. V. C. iii. 6. to the most eminent men of the churches in every country, directing them to be there on an appointed day.11161116    Eus. V. C. iii. 7–11; Soc. i. 8; Ruf. H. E. i. 2. The variations and additions of Theodoret are very noteworthy. H. E. i. 7. Of those who occupied the apostolic sees, the following participated in this conference: Macarius of Jerusalem, Eustathius, who already presided over the church of Antioch on the Orontes; and Alexander of Alexandria near Lake Mareotis. Julius,11171117    Mistake for Silvester. Cf. ii. 20. bishop of Rome, was unable to attend on account of extreme old age; but his place was supplied by Vito and Vicentius, presbyters of his church. Many other excellent and good men from different nations were congregated together, of whom some were celebrated for their learning, their eloquence, and their knowledge of the sacred books, and other discipline; some for the virtuous tenor of their life, and others for the combination of all these qualifications. About three hundred and twenty bishops were present, accompanied by a multitude of presbyters and deacons. There were, likewise, men present who were skilled in dialectics, and ready to assist in the discussions. And as was usually the case on such occasions, many priests resorted to the council for the purpose of transacting their own private affairs;11181118    Ruf. H. E. i. 2; Soc. i. 8. Soz. here makes, as usual, a free use of the speech as reported by Rufinus. for they considered this a favorable opportunity for rectifying their grievances, and in what points each found fault with the rest, he presented a document to the emperor, wherein he noted the offenses committed against himself. As this course was pursued day after day, the emperor set apart one certain day on which all complaints were to be brought before him. When the appointed time arrived, he took the memorials which had been presented to him, and said, “All these accusations will be brought forward in their own season at the great day of judgment, and will there be judged by the Great Judge of all men; as to me, I am but a man, and it would be evil in me to take cognizance of such matters, seeing that the accuser and the accused are priests; and the priests ought so to act as never to become amenable to the judgment of others. Imitate, therefore, the divine love and mercy of God, and be ye reconciled to one another; withdraw your accusations against each other; let us be persuaded, and let us devote our attention to those subjects connected with the faith on account of which we are assembled.” After this address, in order to make the document of each man nugatory, the emperor commanded the memorials to be burnt, and then appointed a day for solving the doubtful points. But before the appointed time arrived, the bishops assembled together, and having summoned Arius to attend, began to examine the disputed topics, each one amongst them advancing his own opinion. As might have been expected, however, many different questions started out of the investigation: some of the bishops spoke against the introduction of novelties contrary to the faith which had been delivered to them from the beginning. And those especially who had adhered to simplicity of doctrine argued that the faith of God ought to be received without curious inquiries; others, however, contended that ancient opinions ought not to be followed without examination. Many of the bishops who were then assembled, and of the clergy who accompanied them, being remarkable for their dialectic skill, and practiced in such rhetorical methods, became conspicuous, and attracted the notice of the emperor and the court. Of that number Athanasius, who was then a deacon of Alexandria, and had accompanied his bishop Alexander, seemed to have the largest share in the counsel concerning these subjects.


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