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Chapter VII.—Concerning the Second Holy General Council, and the Place and Cause of its Convention. Abdication of Gregory the Theologian.

The emperor soon after convened a council of orthodox bishops, for the purpose of confirming the decrees of Nicæa, and of electing a bishop to the vacant see of Constantinople.15301530    Soc. v. 7, 8; cf. Theodoret, H. E. v. 7, 8; Ruf. H. E. ii. 19; Marcell. Chron. s. a.d. 381. He likewise summoned the Macedonians to this assembly; for as their doctrines differed but little from those of the Catholic Church, he judged that it would be easy to effect a reunion with them. About a hundred and fifty bishops who maintained the consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity, were present at this council, as likewise thirty-six of the Macedonian bishops, chiefly from the cities of the Hellespont; of whom the principal were Eleusius, bishop of Cyzicus, and Marcian, bishop of Lampsacus. The other party was under the guidance of Timothy, who had succeeded his brother Peter in the see of Alexandria; of Meletius, bishop of Antioch, who had repaired to Constantinople a short time previously, on account of the election of Gregory, and of Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, who had at this period renounced the tenets of the Macedonians which he previously held. Ascholius, bishop of Thessalonica, Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus, and Acacius, bishop of Berea, were also present at the council. These latter unanimously maintained the decrees of Nicæa, and urged Eleusius and his partisans to conform to these sentiments, reminding them, at the same time, of the embassy they had formerly deputed to Liberius, and of the confession they conveyed to him through the medium of Eustathius, Silvanus, and Theophilus, as has been narrated. The Macedonians, however, declared openly that they would never admit the Son to be of the same substance as the Father, whatever confession they might formerly have made to Liberius, and immediately withdrew. They then wrote to those of their adherents in every city, exhorting them not to conform to the doctrines of Nicæa.

The bishops who remained at Constantinople now turned their attention to the election of a prelate to the see of that city. It is said that the emperor, from profound admiration of the sanctity and eloquence of Gregory, judged that he was worthy of this bishopric, and that, from reverence of his virtue, the greater number of the Synod was of the same opinion. Gregory at first consented to accept the presidency of the church of Constantinople; but afterwards, on ascertaining that some of the bishops, particularly those of Egypt, objected to the election, he withdrew his consent. For my part, this wisest of men is worthy of admiration, not only for universal qualifications, but not the least for his conduct under the present circumstances. His eloquence did not inspire him with pride, nor did vainglory lead him to desire the control of a church, which he had received when it was no longer in danger. He surrendered his appointment to the bishops when it was required of him, and never complained of his many labors, or of the dangers he had incurred in the suppression of heresies. Had he retained possession of the bishopric of Constantinople, it would have been no detriment to the interests of any individual, as another bishop had been appointed in his stead at Nazianzen. But the council, in strict obedience to the laws of the fathers and ecclesiastical order, withdrew from him, with his own acquiescence, the deposit which had been confided to him, without making an exception in favor of so eminent a man. The emperor and the priests therefore proceeded to the election of another bishop, which they regarded as the most important affair then requiring attention; and the emperor was urgent that diligent investigations might be instituted, so that the most excellent and best individual might be intrusted with the high-priesthood of the great and royal city. The council, however, was divided in sentiment; for each of the members desired to see one of his own friends ordained over the church.


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